Our community has always been flexible and resilient. This is true especially now. When the Centers for Disease Control issued guidance for the use of cloth facemasks, Finney County Economic Development Corporation and the Great Plains MakerSpace set out to see what needs we could meet regionally for masks and other Personal Protective Equipment. Great Plains MakerSpace created a new Facebook group called Southwest Kansas COVID-19 Resource Group to get a group of volunteers organized around the efforts. Very shortly, volunteers stepped up to sew masks and gowns while those with access to 3-D printers, went into action making face shields and accessories for more comfortable use of cloth facemasks by healthcare workers. Within a week, more than 200 cloth facemasks had been made by volunteers and delivered to many of our health care providers. As of the writing of this, more than 500 masks have been delivered by the Southwest Kansas COVID-19 Response Group!
However, when we received requests from a few of our largest employers for cloth facemasks for their employee base, we knew we couldn’t rely on volunteers only. We reached out to a couple of businesses that use sewing machines in their normal course of business and they immediately jumped on board to retool their processes in order to meet the need. While these businesses never intended to be engaged in the mass-production of facemasks, they quickly adapted.
Recognizing that access to fabric could become a concern we contacted an area supplier and were able to secure an industrial bolt of fabric. Incredibly, the supplier refused payment—saying they would prefer to donate it for the good of the community.
We continue to hear great stories from our community about how people are stepping up to help their neighbors and taking care of needs for some of our most vulnerable. It is a great reminder of how very fortunate we are to live in this community. This spirit of cohesiveness has served our community well throughout our history and it will be especially important in the days to come.
If you are interested in volunteering to make masks and other personal protection equipment, please join the Southwest Kansas COVID-19 Response Group Facebook page.