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Rogersville's 'sewing soldiers' seek new recruits for surgical mask production

Jeff Bobo • Mar 27, 2020 at 10:00 AM

ROGERSVILLE — A Hawkins County organization that adopts Army units and sends gifts to men and women fighting a war overseas is now recruiting “sewing soldiers” to help fight a new war at home.

The enemy in this new war is the coronavirus, and the weapons they’re sewing in Hawkins County are surgical masks.

On Wednesday, a group of women from the Rogersville-based Project Serve Our Soldiers, in cooperation with the Happy Hearts Quilting Guild and a group of local NJROTC cadets, turned over more than 169 newly manufactured and sterilized surgical masks to Rogersville Police Chief Doug Nelson.

Nelson has been designated as the go-to guy for distribution of surgical masks to local police, firefighters, rescue squads, EMTs, and other first responders.

On Friday at noon, the next batch of new masks will be delivered to the parking lot of the Rogersville National Guard Armory for distribution to local healthcare workers.

“We’re doing everything we can to help our first responders”

Project Serve Our Soldiers member Corki Weart, who is coordinating the mask-manufacturing effort, told the Times News Thursday her volunteers will continue producing masks until the war on COVID-19 is won. 

“Right now we have 15 sewers and four NJROTC youths, but we’re getting ready to call in some more cadets,” Weart said. “We’re doing everything we can to help our first responders, starting in Rogersville and working our way out. Chief Nelson is transporting the masks for us, and his officers are delivering them to the designated areas.”

It should be noted that the NJROTC cadets volunteered of their own volition, and not as part of a school-sponsored activity.

Weart added, “We’re trying to reach out and stop this thing as quick as we can because we know that our county has fewer cases now, so the funding will be slow to come to us at this point. Because of that, we’re trying to pitch in and do something we feel will make a big difference in our communities.”

“They’re doing their own little assembly lines”

To meet the growing demand for surgical masks, Weart and her army have put out a call for more volunteers and more contributions of materials or funds.

The sewers are working in small groups or individuals at their own homes. The fabric can be purchased at stores like Walmart, Ben Franklin, Hobby Lobby, or Joann Fabrics and Crafts.

A video produced by Joann shows how to make surgical masks at home, and that’s the manufacturing guideline Weart is recommending. That video can be seen in the online version of this article at www.timesnews.net.

“We’re also asking for people to make masks at home and bring them to us,” Weart said. “We can’t work in large groups, so we have small groups. Some are individuals, and everyone is on the same page, and we’re able to produce quite a bit doing it this way. For example, we have an aunt with a niece and a nephew working at one location. We also have three ladies who live on the same street who are working from another location, and they’re doing their own little assembly lines. One is cutting, one is pinning, and the other is sewing. Once everything has been pinned up and cut, then we all sew.”

The completed masks are washed, properly sterilized, and bagged in groups of 10 for distribution.

Weart added, “These manufacturers are wives, mothers, aunts, daughters, and young men who are serving as NJROTC high school students. This is the community that is putting this together, and it is going out to the community. So we are very, very proud of the work that is being done. In two days’ time, we produced 169 masks. In another two days’ time I don’t know what we’ll have tomorrow (Friday) but our goal is 160.”

Friday’s batch is going out to medical professionals

The volunteers have been using 100% cotton fabric with 100% cotton thread. Elastic to secure the masks is now becoming harder to find, so a viable alternative is ponytail holders.

Friday’s batch is going out to medical professionals and is made with a special type of fabric that has been approved by medical authorities.

Anyone interested in contributing to surgical mask production in Hawkins County can call Weart for more information at (407) 883-2036.

You can meet Weart and other volunteers at the Rogersville National Guard Armory parking lot on Wednesdays and Fridays at noon when completed masks are collected for distribution. Social distancing protocols are enforced.

Anyone interested in contributing funds or materials can mail them to: Project Serve Our Soldiers, 183 Manis Road, Rogersville, TN 37857

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