In late March, Mendy Gilliland’s Facebook post of her and her family’s face mask making served as an inspiration. As the Board and I reflected on how the Lumberyard Arts Center could fill a need in the Baldwin City community during this public health care crisis, an idea materialized. Due to COVID-19, our building is a quiet vacancy. Could we serve as a mask making facility– a place to create and innovate face masks?
At first, the idea was to create sewing stations of operation in our main courtyard and a production assembly line of face mask materials in our classroom. With social distancing and Governor Kelly’s state-at-home oder, we realized it wasn’t feasible, right now, to serve in this capacity. But, was it possible we could facilitate, coordinate and network our Baldwin City volunteer sewists and increase material (fabric, elastic, etc.) capacity for the creation of face masks as a grassroots endeavor? We know we have the talent–after all, we are the Quilt Capital of Kansas! We know we have the spirit – rooted in the heritage of our first female mayor Lucy Sweet Sullivan, whom we’re celebrating this year as part of the City’s Sesquicentennial and for which Sullivan Square is named. So, with these thoughts…
We contact one of the longest running Baldwin City businesses (30+ years), Quilters’ Paradise, and its owner, Sharon Vesecky. Thanks to Sharon’s generosity of fabric and elastic, the Lumberyard is producing “face mask making kits” with the idea to get the kits to sewists to make face masks. We also realized it would be helpful to know two things: 1) people willing to volunteer to sew face masks and 2) face mask needs of the business community. It would then make sense to match face masks with these business needs.
Our goal is to coordinate and facilitate the production of face masks for citizens and businesses within the USD 348 geographic area. We invite you to join and build our face mask production network. We are initially creating our network and building capacity. Our wish is to complement the grassroots spirit of “we can do it” that is already manifested in our community and the people stepping up to create face masks for all.
As of April 25, we have 42 volunteer community sewists creating face masks. Due to elastic shortage, we’re innovating alternatives to elastic including ties in various materials. Thank you volunteers sewists! They have created 1,420 face masks. Nearly 600 face masks have been distributed to 24 local businesses and 143 to individuals. Currently, we are working to package the face masks to make them available at Arrowhead Hardware and Baldwin City Market. You may also pick up a face mask at the Lumberyard Arts Center. Please be patient as supplies may fluctuate!
We are grateful to have received a Disaster Relief Fund grant from the Douglas County Community Foundation and donations from our community to support this initiative. Thank you!
STAY TUNED–> Your arts center is working on DIY face making opportunities where YOU can create your own mask at the Lumberyard, when it is safe for us to do so.