Corvallis, Ore. -- When the Coronavirus pandemic first hit the Willamette Valley, a group of community members in Corvallis sprung into action. From those first few dedicated to making masks and personal protective equipment for first responders, hospital workers and assisted living facilities, the Corvallis Sewing Brigade has grown into a massive effort that has produced over 48,000 masks and more for residents.
"It's been so humbling and such an amazing heartwarming experience during such a stressful time," says Elizabeth Wyatt, one of the group administrators. "Doesn't it make you feel like you grew up in the right place or were born in the right town? It's just an amazing thing to turn around and see these people making more and more masks."
Wyatt, who typically works in the theatre department at a local high school, and others jumped into action at the beginning of the pandemic, enlisting the help of costume makers, amateur sewers and so many more.
"We decided to get everyone paddling in the same direction and have the same desire to make masks for our first responders and high needs people and really for the VA immediately to get PPE in their hands as fast as possible," Wyatt explains. "We are at 48,000 reusable face masks and do about 1200 masks a week now. All of a sudden there were 1500 people in the Facebook page and we needed to get them paddling in the same direction."
Initially the group had planned to scale back their operations at the end of July but with new outbreaks popping up around the state and country they decided to continue their work. The GoFundMe page for the Brigade has already eclipsed over 10,000 dollars for supplies. And it's not just masks. The group, and local companies associated with them, have created over 48,000 masks, 7,000 face shields as well as hospital gowns and more. The work is also done in conjunction with the Benton County Emergency Operations Center.
"We tried to be there for the preschools that are trying to open and then the child care that was trying to open and that spurred a little bit more of a resurgence," says Wyatt. "We did some special work for the fire department, and also some tear away masks for the police department to go with their uniforms and I think that's been really appreciated."
But what has kept the group going is how far reaching their efforts have been. They've been sending masks all over the state and west coast, and even as far away as Maine.
"The favorite thing in the Facebook page is to get pictures of people wearing the masks made by the brigade. Because people are sitting at home isolating, and so to get and see picutres of a mask someone's made is uplifting and makes us all sew faster."