NEW BREMEN — Heeding the call for more masks for the medical community, New Bremen resident Emilie Britton is applying her life motto and the message of Rosie the Riveter: “We can do it!”
Britton already heads-up the New Bremen Blanketeers, a non-profit, blanket-making organization, which aims to provide comfort for those who need it. She decided to flip from blankets to masks when her daughter, Kaci Pape, who works at the Shelby County Health Department, said, ‘Mom, we need masks. Is this something the Blanketeers could do?’”
“I knew it was was bigger than me and a handful of others,” Britton said when she learned about the large numbers of masks needed.
It was Friday night, March 20, when mother and her daughter talked. The next day Britton posted about making masks on the Blanketeers’ private Facebook page and someone mentioned Wilson Health wanted 600 masks. It was then it occurred to her they were going to need a lot more help.
“So I put a public (Facebook) post out there and started asking for sewers, elastic, and the donations started pouring in. The people starting volunteering to sew,” she said. “It’s just been incredible the outpouring of generosity and support. Not only of time and money and resources, but people willing to drive for me. And they want to cut the rectangles.”
From start to finish, including cutting the material, it takes Britton about 20 minutes to make a mask. If the rectangles are already cut, it takes her about 12-15 minutes.
The retired Honda worker, where she said she began thinking of herself as Rosie the Riveter and adopted the “can do” motto, typically rises at 5:30 a.m. to check messages and survey the day’s call for masks. If her husband and last child residing at home are not awake yet, she gets right to sewing. Her day is devoted to the project almost non-stop until around 8:30 p.m., when she then sums up the daily progress.
Her “Masking Covid-19 Team” currently is comprised of five cutters, 70 “sewing warriors,” and 10 drivers. Britton said team members are mindful to keep social distance by working away from each other when doing their part. Materials, cut material, or the finished masks are bagged and either dropped off or picked up from a green tub located on Britton’s front porch.
As of Friday morning, April 3, Britton said they they have produced and sent 5,000 masks out the door since stepping up the plate on March 21.
“She is a great lady there. I mean outstanding. She deserves a lot of recognition,” Auglaize County Sheriff Allen F. Solomon said. “She made a comment on our Facebook and she said she is making these masks. And we caught it and I said, ‘hey, we need to get a hold of this lady.’ The chief deputy actually made contact with her and we went down the same day and got them. It couldn’t have been better. Just a super lady.”
Solomon said Britton sent enough masks to cover each person in the entire office and some extras.
Aside from masks she also heard a need for surgical hats. During this outreach process she was able to connect two women, who one had material and some already finished hats, and the other who used to make surgical hats with a better grade machine and wanted to help.
Elastic, Britton said, is becoming very difficult to find and much more expensive.
“Elusive elastic, oh how I need you!” Britton posted on her day 10 public Facebook post.
Two spools of elastic last week on eBay costed $20, she said, now it costs $40. She has resorted to cutting up hairbands or elastic out of clothes to get the job done. They need 14 inches of the one-fourth-inch elastic to make one mask.
Although 50 masks were sent to Columbus, the intention is for them to be primarily distributed within the local adjacent county area, including, Allen, Auglaize, Darke, Mercer, Miami and Shelby counties.
Britton said said people are very interested to know where the masks go each day. The team makes masks for several repeat request locations such nursing homes and Joint Township District Memorial Hospital, St. Marys, and Mercy Health-St. Rita’s Medical Center, Lima, which continually need new ones and are trying to build up their inventory. They are continuously taking new requests and providing masks for personal use also.
Britton’s message to her sewing warriors is, “Please don’t get burned out! Take breaks as you need them, and know I truly appreciate all of you! We can do this together! Rosie.”
The team needs more elastic and appreciates donations to help to continue to provide free masks to the community.
Donations can be made online at http://www.newbremenfoundation.org/donate-now/ . Checks may be sent to the New Bremen Foundation, P.O. Box 97, New Bremen, OH 45869, with New Bremen Blanketeers written in the comment area of the check. Donors will receive a charitable donation tax form in return.
Tightly woven, cotton material and elastic can be dropped off to the green tub on the front porch at 15 Kamman Circle, New Bremen, OH 45869.
Anyone or place in need of masks can message Britton through her Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/emilie.o.britton.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.