White Street masks

White Street Market, working in conjunction with Maria Melton, produced over 600 masks during the COVID-19 shutdown that generated over $400 in donations for Coordinated Charities. During the first 12-weeks of COVID-19, Coordinated Charities distributed 16,338 pounds of groceries for residents of McMinn County who needed food assistance. As the COVID-19 pandemic reaches new stages of increase, the need for masks in the community is growing by the day. Masks are still at the White Street Market Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. for donations. Shown here is Melton holding her 1,000th handcrafted mask that she produced with Lisa Mayfield of White Street Market and Kevin Lane of Coordinated Charities.

Almost overnight, the news was all about COVID-19, the coronavirus.

On March 5, Gov. Bill Lee announced Tennessee’s first positive case of coronavirus. Just a few days later, local grocery shelves were nearly empty and, soon after that, schools began closing.

Newly-coined phrases such as “social distancing,” “sheltering-in-place” and “flatten the curve” became part of our everyday conversations.

On March 23, I decided to sew a cloth facemask, thinking that “some protection has to be better than none, providing a first layer of defense” against the tiny bacteria that was infecting people all around the globe.

Since March 25, I have made and given away more than 1,000 masks.

I have been given yards of fabric and monetary donations to purchase sewing supplies from family, friends and caring people in our community who want to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

When the CDC announced on April 4 their recommendation that we should wear non-medical cloth face coverings in public places, I already had given away 100 masks.

My masks have been mailed to at least 18 states — even the Easter Bunny was seen in Athens wearing one of the masks I’ve made!

Local businesses were preparing to reopen and, in late April, Lisa Mayfield at White Street Market asked if they could put some masks in their shop.

I told her that in a month I had made and given away 450 masks and absolutely they could have some for their shop.

When I told Lisa the masks are free and not for sale, she suggested having a donation jar for a local charity.

I loved that idea and chose Coordinated Charities to receive any donations from the mask giveaway.

Renee (Fisher) and Lisa told me more than $1,000 will be given to Coordinated Charities!

On April 1, Dolly Parton donated $1 million to Vanderbilt University Medical Center for research for a cure for COVID-19.

Dolly encouraged everyone to do what they can.

Sewing masks is what I can do; that is my contribution.

Fabric makes me happy and helping others makes me happy.

I have sewn more than 130 yards of fabric and used almost seven miles of thread.

I believe this mask project was given to me to use my creativity and caring to help us all be safer during this pandemic.

These masks are works of art from my heart.

I purchase fabric and supplies weekly and sew daily to keep this project alive and to keep up with requests for masks. As long as the need is here, I will keep sewing and bringing masks to White Street Market.

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