DANVILLE — In a day and a half, volunteers have sewn 350 face masks for use during the coronavirus.
Kathi Beiter, of Danville, got a call Sunday morning from a former college roommate now living in Georgia who she hadn't talked to in some time.
"Her sister is a doctor in the ICU (intensive care unit) and she was asking if I knew people in the area who could make masks," Beiter said Thursday.
Her husband's store, Beiter's Department Store, at 491 Mill St., serves as a pickup point for materials and drop-off point for finished masks.
Owner Tom Beiter said volunteers have collected the mask-making materials, which can be picked up for free at Beiter's.
"We already turned over our first batch to Geisinger," he said.
They are being collected by the volunteer group Central Pennsylvania Health Professionals Against Coronavirus (COVID-19).
He said the materials have been donated by good samaritans.
Kathi Beiter said many people are using fabric and supplies they have at home.
While making masks, people should wash the fabric first and then follow any of the many fabric mask patterns found online, she said.
Kathi Beiter said two types of masks are being made — one of fabric and another of a filtering fabric.
She didn't know how many total people were involved.
"After I posted on Facebook to get the word out, I got about 40 people responding the first day and since then more people have volunteered. I have gotten a lot of other calls from people in other areas who are doing it," she said.
A GoFundMe online campaign has started.
Through social media, they continue to reach out to local businesses to produce masks and employ people locally, according to the health professionals group.
The fabric masks can be used by non-medical personnel such as patients and the public, she said. They can also be used to cover medical-grade masks or as an emergency mask if medical masks are depleted.
She said her former roommate's sister designed a pattern using High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter vacuum bags as the filter fabric for medical masks.
She said they are harder to sew than the fabric masks and should be done by people who are good at sewing.
She has been in contact with Dr. Sandy Green, an interventional cardiologist. He said the project was started by doctors and other health care workers who were concerned that the country may not have enough personal protective equipment when they come in contact with coronavirus patients.
The effort started five days ago by Pulmonologist Karen Korzick has resulted in about 60 people sewing. About 350 masks were made in a day and a half.
Volunteers are assembling kits to make the HEPA masks that will be bagged and delivered to Beiter's for pickup.
"The community has stepped up. I am always amazed and happy to see how the community cares about the people who take care of them. It's pretty extraordinary," he said.
He said volunteers have spoken to local businesses about equipment and patterns for making personal protective equipment.
All Sports America, of Northumberland, is trying to figure out a way that it can help out, he said.