Local women make face masks for ECRMC

El Centro Regional Medical Center Chief Nursing Officer Louise Kenney (left) receives a bag of 165 face masks from Lyn Croak, of Holtville, on Thursday at ECRMC in El Centro. Croak and five other women volunteered to make the disposable face masks for the hospital. COURTESY PHOTO

EL CENTRO — As the COVID-19 pandemic has created a worldwide need for disposable face masks, a group of women from Holtville utilized their sewing skills to help alleviate the need here.

Lyn Croak, Delu Plourd, Shirley Daniell, Nora Ritter, Margie Garcia and Nancy O’Malley volunteered to make 165 face masks and donated them Thursday morning to El Centro Regional Medical Center.

The masks will be used by hospital staff and personnel who don’t have direct patient contact.

They will also be offered to any allowed visitors in the hospital, and to any low-risk patients who aren’t suspected of possibly having COVID-19, ECRMC’s Chief Strategic Officer Cathy L. Kennerson explained.

“Anything that is being donated is being overseen by the administration,” she said.

The masks will be dispersed to either ECRMC’s main campus or its outpatient clinics based on where there’s a need.

Staff directly caring for patients continue to wear the personal protective equipment that is approved for whatever task they’re particularly doing, Kennerson explained.

Thursday’s donation by the six women is one of eight similar donations that the hospital has received so far during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kennerson said homemade masks have been coming in from a variety of different seamstresses in Imperial Valley — most of whom have been working individually.

Tallying up how many masks ECRMC has received so far has been rather difficult, she said.

“Things are changing so rapidly at the hospital, I don’t think anybody would have a moment to even count them when they come in,” she said.

Kennerson couldn’t recall a previous time that ECRMC had received so many masks from the community.

“We haven’t had the need before this pandemic came about,” she said.

Croak’s niece works at ECRMC. Knowing that Croak loves to sew, the niece contacted her aunt when she learned the hospital needed about 100 masks.

Croak said she gladly lent her skills towards the effort. She was given all the materials needed, as well as a design for the specific masks ECRMC wanted.

However, Croak took it a step further. She put a call out on her Facebook page for anyone who was interested in helping.

“The amount of people who want to help is mind-boggling,” she said.

She narrowed the offers down to Plourd, Daniell, Ritter, Garcia and Malley — all of whom worked together to surpass the hospital’s initial goal by 65 masks.

The group had been working since March 24 in preparation for Thursday’s donation.

“They’re fast, and they’re good,” Croak said of the group.

And while all members of the group don’t still live in Holtville, they’re all natives of that city and are in their 60s, Croak said.

Croak has been sewing since she was 8 years old, although she has never made a face mask prior to this.

“It was really easy,” she said. “There’s a ton of information on the internet.”

Following ECRMC’s guidelines, the group of women used four layers of surgical material for each mask.

They also made straps directly attached to the face masks, rather than use elastic bands for the straps.

When asked why she decided to lead the effort, Croak explained that it felt like the right thing to do.

“It’s just to help the community,” she said. “When there’s a need, you answer the call.”

Staff Writer Vincent Osuna can be reached at vosuna@ivpressonline.com or 760-337-3442.

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