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Sewing bee seeks volunteers to bolster cloth mask supply

From left, United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley AmeriCorps member Olivia Dailey, Artsbridge Executive Director Amanda Stevens, United Way Community Impact Director Sara Hess and Artsbridge Office Manager Kelly Shook arrange sewing machines and tables Thursday afternoon for the United Way’s face mask sewing bee slated for Monday through Friday next week at Artsbridge Studio at 925 Market St. in Parkersburg. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — The United Way Alliance of the Mid-Ohio Valley and Artsbridge are teaming up to bolster the local supply of cloth masks.

A sewing bee is planned for 9 a.m. to noon and 1-4 p.m. Monday through Friday, with sewing machines and materials provided for volunteers.

“We just need their time and skills,” said Sara Hess, community impact director for the United Way.

The organization’s neighbor, Artsbridge, is providing the space to set up donated sewing machines — at socially distanced intervals of at least 6 feet — in its Parkersburg studio at 925 Market St.

“We are thrilled to partner with the United Way in this very timely project,” said Amanda Stevens, executive director of Artsbridge, which supports and promotes arts activity and education in the area.

The United Way has been involved with mask efforts since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, when it joined the Masks 4 WV program to help collect homemade masks for health care facilities in the event that personal protective equipment like N95 masks were unavailable.

As guidance shifted to recommendations — and later requirements — that individuals wear masks in an effort to prevent spreading the virus to others, the United Way began providing masks to workers at food pantries and eventually to people in need, Hess said.

“It was geared toward our vulnerable population that couldn’t necessarily afford to buy the masks,” she said.

Volunteers have been making masks at home with kits, and next week’s sewing bee is a way to enlist the aid of folks who can sew but may not have the equipment to do it.

Those wanting to participate are asked to call the United Way at 304-580-0570 to sign up. There are expected to be a dozen sewing machines available, and volunteers can participate for all or part of the day, Hess said.

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