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Local quilt group donates masks to staff at Topeka PMMA

Rose Dahlgren, marketing director, models a cloth mask like the hundreds donated to Topeka Presbyterian Manor. While employees are no longer wearing cloth masks due to the availability of more manufactured masks, the cloth masks were a blessing in March and April when mask supplies were low.

Employees at Topeka Presbyterian Manor benefited from the generosity of local quilters, who donated reusable cloth face masks in March.

“This was started because you couldn’t buy them, so quilters and home sewers made masks from fabric in their stash,” said Lori Finney, who volunteers with the Kansas Capital Quilters Guild. “And then quickly you couldn’t get elastic and you couldn’t get bias tape.”

The Topeka-based quilters group has been an active part of an effort to provide reusable cloth face masks to organizations in Shawnee County.

Alone, the group of more than 100 quilting aficionados donated more than 1,000 masks in the first couple of weeks. They then joined forces with other volunteers, who communicated through the Facebook group 1,000 Masks for Shawnee County.

Angela Dake, the organizer of the group, thought if she could get 100 volunteers to make 10 masks each, they could meet the 1,000-mask goal.

Instead, the group has contributed more than 20,000 masks to organizations such as hospitals, social service agencies, senior living communities and churches.

“The response was so much more than we imagined,” Lori said. “But the need was overwhelming, too.”

Volunteers made all kinds of masks, according to their individual skill level, and they also accommodated health care organizations who asked for specific design features, such as a pocket for a filter. Lori even learned how to start hundreds of masks at a time on her long arm, a quilting machine designed to sew together the top, batting and back in order to make a finished quilt. The masks were then finished on smaller machines.

Her day job is in health care, so Lori understands the importance of personal protective equipment.

“You’re working with a vulnerable population, but you also have a staff that is high risk,” she said. “You have to protect the staff.”

Lori started quilting four years ago, when her daughter was pregnant. Now quilting is something she does for fun and profit. She finishes quilts for people on the side, through her business Prairie Traditions.

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