Hospitals around the country are running out of protective masks, so JOANN worked with doctors to create free kits you can sew at home.

Emily VanSchmus
March 25, 2020

This story originally appeared on: bhg.com

This week I’ve seen the famous “look for the helpers” quote from Mr. Rogers everywhere. I’ve been looking for ways to be a helper from my home, and I’ve found several ways to get involved. A few days ago I learned you can help protect healthcare workers by sewing fabric masks, and yesterday JOANN stores announced they’re making that effort even easier by providing free mask-making kits you can pick up curbside.

Related: Doctors Are Pleading for People to Donate PPE Gear—Here's How You Can Help

JOANN employees noticed sewing groups around the country were banding together to provide hand-sewn cotton masks for hospitals that were in short supply, so the fabric store stepped in to help. “As a company, we were inspired by our customers who are pitching in during this unprecedented crisis, and we wanted to do what we can to contribute,” their announcement states. The store has donated all the materials, so you won’t need to pay for anything.

Amanda Hayes, manager of corporate communications for JOANN, told us they wanted to make the process as easy as possible for anyone who wants to contribute. “During difficult times, people want to help in any way they can. Customers, and even hospitals and health care workers with no sewing experience, were coming to us for supplies to create face masks and gowns," she said. "We wanted to do everything possible to help these efforts, and we are so proud to help make a meaningful and life-saving difference in this uncertain time."

Here’s how it works: Employees at JOANN stores have been busy preparing kits of pre-cut mask patterns, elastic, and other materials. The stores are still open, but they're offering curbside pickup for the masks. Employees will be watching for customers to drive up, so all you have to do is drive up to the store and a worker will meet you outside and hand as many kits as you like through your window. They’ve coordinated with doctors and medical professionals to make sure the kits only include materials accepted by hospitals, so all you have to do is sew them together. No shopping, cutting, or prepping patterns required; you don't even have to wash the fabric before you begin, since the prep work has all been done for you. All 860 stores across the country are participating, and a JOANN representative told us you don’t need to reserve kits ahead of time.

YEGOR ALEYEV/GETTY IMAGES

Once you’ve picked up the materials, take them home and sew the patterns together: The JOANN site has a helpful how-to video to walk you through the process. When you’ve sewn all your masks, drive back to the store, drop them off (you don’t ever have to get out of your car!), and JOANN will donate the masks to a local hospital or clinic in need.

So why do hospitals need these masks? Due to the recent outbreak of the new coronavirus, hospitals, clinics, and medical offices have seen an increase in patients, and are going through masks more quickly. Medical-grade masks such as N95 masks are the ideal choice for workers caring for patients with the virus, but medical workers are using the masks more quickly than they can be manufactured. That’s where the homemade masks come in: While hand-sewn cotton masks won’t form fit to a doctor or nurse’s face, and can’t filter out bacteria like an N95 mask, the cotton barrier can help protect against airborne droplets (such as from a nearby sneeze). Essentially, a sewn cotton mask is better than no mask at all.

Drive up to your local JOANN store (you can find the nearest one with their store locator) and start sewing masks today. If you aren’t close to a location, you can still use the patterns and videos on their site to make your own masks at home using clean cotton fabric and reach out to a local organization to donate them. You can use this interactive list to find a location accepting masks in your area and learn what their needs are.

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