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Sewing group from Rockville Centre makes hundreds of masks for health care workers

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Early last month, two groups of moms were busy sewing costumes for their daughters’ Red and Blue competition at South Side High School. For the past week, these women have joined forces to create fabric masks for local health care professionals. In about a week, 60 women in Rockville Centre had sewn more than 500 masks.

Not long after the annual competition that has been a Rockville Centre tradition for more than 100 years, the women kept their contacts and momentum going, shifting their focus from sewing decorative sequins to making practical protective gear.

“After seeing more and more news reports about the lack of personal protective equipment for nurses, we started thinking about the nurses we knew who were directly affected, and wondered how we could help,” MaryLou Laurie said. “We went from sewing sequins onto costumes to making surgical masks and caps in the course of a month.”

Laurie has two daughters at the high school, and sewed costumes for the Blue team, while her cousin Amy Sherlock sewed for the Red team. The two women and their respective sewing groups collaborated, researching designs and fabrics for masks. Since each group had already developed a system, they simply moved from costumes to masks, dividing up the tasks.

According to Laurie, some volunteers wash, trace and cut the fabric and deliver it to others who do the sewing, while others createmasks from start to finish. Others run errands, picking up and dropping off materials. All of the finished masks are delivered to Laurie’s house for distribution. To date, her list of recipients has included various units at Mercy Medical Center, Mount Sinai South Nassau, NYU Winthrop Hospital, St. Francis, New York Presbyterian and Cohen Children’s Hospital.

“Anyone who’s asked for them is on our list,” Laurie said. “We’re trying to get them out as soon as we can, but it seems like we can never get ahead.”

“We made more than 500 in a week,” Sherlock added, “and we’re still going strong.”

Tricia Mahoney, a 2015 SSHS graduate, is a nurse in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at New York Presbyterian Cornell. She graduated last year from the University of Scranton, and never imagined having such an “interesting” first year on the job. As a former captain of Red and Blue, she also never thought the two worlds would intersect.

“I never dreamed that the woman who made my Red and Blue costume would be making surgical masks for me in the middle of a pandemic,” she said.

Typically, Mahoney said, before the pandemic, she was required to wear a mask only for certain patients. Now, all hospital employees and visitors are required to wear them. On top of that, the paper masks are supposed to be disposed of after each patient interaction.

With the shortage, one mask has to last for an entire 12½-hour shift. Mahoney said she appreciates the fabric masks, because they can be washed and worn again.

Mahoney, who lives in Rockville Centre, didn’t ask for the masks. One day, she said, she simply found 30 to 40 of them on her doorstep. “I was very surprised and grateful to receive this generous donation,” she said. She told coworkers on her floor, and passed the masks out to those who needed them. “Leave it to our own RVC community to come up with a plan like this,” she said.

Those in need of masks can call or text (516) 319-1925, and the volunteers say they will do their best to accommodate requests.