Sew4ZeroWaste meets COVID-19 helps coordinate ‘Orcas Mask Makers United’

  • Thu Jun 4th, 2020 1:30am
  • Life

by Asifa Pasin

ORS/The Exchange

COVID-19 has changed life for all of us. One big change has been realizing Sew4ZeroWaste, the sewing and crafting workshop I’ve been hosting at Orcas Recycling Services would suddenly be needed to actively help provide PPE for our local Island community.

It started out with a call from Debra O’Conner, a local hospice care nurse, who was in desperate need of PPE isolation gowns and face masks for our hospice and caregiver community. As it was March, Orcas medical professionals had only a small supply reserved for staff and patients and there was nothing available for purchase online, so SEW4ZeroWaste decided to construct them locally using plastic bag liners. A very small crew sewed about 280 isolation gowns to fulfill the urgent request which is adequate for the present need. We will, of course, start making them again if the need arises.

Honestly, it was strange and somewhat uncomfortable for me to be sewing with plastic! Sew4ZeroWaste focuses on making reusable bags using recycled materials to save the earth from toxic plastic. Oh, the irony!

In April, an equally important need presented itself: CDC recommends everyone wear a Cloth Face Masks! So we got to work and began to sew face masks in many different shapes, sizes and designs . Some were specifically designed by Michele Keyes for a filter pocket. We partnered with her very dedicated group of volunteers to sew masks for Essential workers and high-risk Orcas residents.

This proved to be a huge undertaking! On behalf of ORS, I consulted with Nancy Schafer’s West Sound Mask-Makers’ group ( and Mary Gropp’s volunteers ( and we decided to combine our efforts. Many other amazingly talented and dedicated individuals and groups have now joined forces with us. This collaboration and growth has created the latest group “Orcas Mask Makers United” and includes any person (or group) now or in the future who wants to join us making masks for our community.

Due to the new mandate, the public is required to wear face masks in all indoor spaces. Our individually, clean bagged face masks are available at Island Hardward Supply, Ray’s Pharmacy and the Orcas Food Co-op. These masks are available as our gift to islanders who need them. We do gratefully accept donations to cover the expenses of our materials through the Community Emergency Response Fund of OICF ( To date, we have provided approximately 800 masks! We will continue to sew masks through the summer to maintain a supply for islanders and create a large supply for our students, teachers and staff when school begins in the fall. This is obviously a tall order and we NEED HELP SEWING! E-mail: Nancy Schafer at to sew, donate fabrics, supplies. If you need masks: Mary Gropp at If you need to borrow a sewing machine to help make masks: contact

I’m going to end with a quote I recently read from the latest article written by Brendan Cowan regarding COVID-19.

“The communities and people that will emerge from this in the best shape emotionally are those that channel the uncertainty and fear towards kindness, patience, and decency — and not use this as an opportunity for bitterness, anger, or shaming.