You don’t need a mask to keep from catching the virus of San Juan Island’s compassion which motivated San Juan volunteers to create more than 4,500 masks to protect fellow islanders from COVID-19.
“I feel that we are all motivated by the rewarding experience of believing that by making these mask covers for medical providers and essential workers, we are doing something that actually saves lives,” Peace Island Volunteer Krista Mattox said.
Even if you didn’t hear their sewing machines buzzing away at all hours of the day and night, you may have heard of the Masketeers by word of mouth, as stories of their ingenuity and dedication grew. You may not have seen their hands, as teams of sewers, organized to make masks of all different sizes and different fabrics, rushed to fill the need for protective masks but you may have seen their work. The members worked independently, according to Mattox.
“I hadn’t even met most of the Masketeers until I saw them in the recent video my grandson put together,” Mattox said.
The group’s work drew the attention of Mattox’s grandson Max Mattox — a Washington State University student who graduated from Friday Harbor High School in 2019. Max Mattox, who is studying broadcasting production, created a nearly seven-minute YouTube video about the Masketeers titled “Masking San Juan.” Watch his video at youtube.com/watch?v=SDLKJlJftws.
The mask makers began production in March, at the request of PeaceHealth Peace Islands Medical Center Administrator Beth Williams-Geiger. She had contacted the hospital’s nonprofit volunteer program — the Peace Island Volunteers — requesting its help in solving a dilemma facing the facility — a limited number of N95 masks.
“What if we were to have our volunteers sew a mask that can be used protectively over the N95?” Williams-Geiger asked in Max Mattox’s video. “It would allow the caregiver to wear [the N95 mask] all day long.”
Approximately 600 masks were produced within three weeks, Max Mattox claimed in his video. When public health officials began recommending everyone wear cloth masks in April, the group of volunteers felt the need to expand their work. More than 50 additional communities stepped up to the plate, according to Max Mattox.
“Individuals — mostly women, not 100 percent, but mostly women — just stepped up and said ‘This is the right thing to do for our community,’” San Juan County Public Health Officer Dr. Frank James said to Max Mattox. “The women that have provided this to our community literally save lives, literally save a lot of lives. … It’s truly an incredible story of success.”