Unmasking their talents
By Megan Maynard
In these rapidly changing and uncertain times, many of us have had to change our routines. Typically, the summer months at Sea Turtle Preservation Society are filled with night walks, nesting surveys, planning the Turtle Krawl 5K, and other turtle-related engagements. Many volunteers who look forward to this busy season have now refocused their attention and volunteer efforts to help the community.
When the coronavirus pandemic first began, the elderly, infirm, and those with significant co-morbidities were considered highest risk for infection and poor outcomes. This risk led a local resident and STPS volunteer to ask for assistance in making masks for the residents in Brevard’s skilled nursing facilities.
Many STPS volunteers stepped up to help, including Helen Bachtell. She soon recruited her fellow volunteer and neighbor, Nancy Helms, to begin assembling masks. Together they decided on a mask design and got to work. The skilled nursing facilities gathered materials, and Helen alone sewed 50 face masks in three days. She was so inspired that she continued to sew masks with a new design (to hold a filter) to supply her neighbors and friends in her condo. When elastic was in short supply, Helen found that ribbon was an easy substitute and kept making masks.
Nancy too immediately started sewing masks, having enjoyed sewing since being taught at age 10. Their collection of masks were brought to a local skilled nursing facility where an employee in PPE (personal protective equipment) collected the masks. When more masks were completed, an employee from the facility traveled to pick them up, and Nancy recalls his gratitude was palpable. It felt good to Nancy to give back in uncertain times, and she continued to make masks for her family and other STPS volunteers.
Not all of us may be as skilled with a sewing machine as these women, but they remind us of something: we can all make an impact. There are many ways to help during these stressful times. Help a neighbor, call a friend or family member to check in, make a meal for a neighbor, walk a pet, or video chat with family members you cannot visit. You never know the difference in someone’s life you may make.
A big turtle hug to all STPS volunteers who helped and continue to help with the sewing of masks. Thanks to Helen Bachtell, Nancy Helms, Lori Lewis, Dori Hughes, Mary Komives, Nancy Johnson, Karen Lewey, Christine Williams, Sara Spurk, and Kelly Barnes.