It’s been called a war, and in this battle, Sharman’s Sewing Center in Longview is helping lead the charge one protective medical mask at a time.
When Sharman Dorsey and her employees started hearing about the potential shortage of masks that medical and emergency personnel would need to protect them should there be a larger outbreak of COVID-19 in this area, they went to work. They first read everything they could find about what would be needed in masks — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website and articles on filtration, for instance.
“Anybody that’s done any research knows you can’t find those anywhere,” Dorsey said of what are known as N95 masks that filter the air for medical workers. News reports have widely indicated there are a shortage of those kinds of supplies around the country as cases of COVID-19 continue to multiply. Dorsey and her husband, Richard, opened the store in Longview in 1984 and later opened a location in Tyler.
“There are several things out on the internet,” Dorsey said. “We started looking to see what was the best.”
Dorsey and her employees then reached out to local medical professionals to make sure a meaningful design was finalized .
“We don’t want to do all that and just be spinning wheels,” Dorsey said this week of their efforts to design the mask.
Dorsey, with help from employees including Petrina Cude and Teresa Jenkins, started on the design as this past weekend approached. With input from the local medical experts, they finalized a design that uses ties made of fabric or ribbon instead of elastic, so the masks would be adjustable to the different sizes people need.
The masks are made of cotton, with pleats that provide layers of protection and a pocket in the back where people can insert cutouts from vacuum cleaner bags with HEPA filters that could provide additional protection. She said East Texas Vacuums in Longview, for instance, carries HEPA filter bags for Oreck or Riccar vacuums that would work.
“Every mask we make we put one of those in it,” she said. “They will probably use something else, but we want them to have something when they get the mask.”
Sharman’s knows what sewers make isn’t the same as an N95 mask, Dorsey said.
“Everybody understands that this mask is only a last resort because (medical personnel) don’t have masks,” she said, and added they also can be used to help prolong the life of the N95 masks.
Sharman’s had finalized the pattern by Monday and turned to its army — employees working in the store, seniors and young people who love to sew, local churches, quilting groups, friends and family members of people who work in the medical field.
“I think it just makes everybody feel better to make something helpful to do instead of just sitting and worrying,” Dorsey said.
The patterns can be found on the store’s website, www.sharmanssewingcenter.com, and on Sharman’s Facebook page, where there’s also a video.
“I have people from all over the United States asking for the pattern,” Dorsey said.
Her answer to everyone is, yes, use the pattern whether it’s to help people in Longview or in other cities.
“That’s the whole purpose of it. Use the pattern to help your people,” she said.
She said she’s not surprised by the response to her effort.
“I believe in the goodness of people and especially in our area,” Dorsey said.