Volunteers from across the Edmonton area have banded together to help provide homemade masks to anyone who wants one.

The initiative started last month when a local woman created the Mask Makers YEG Facebook page.

“Initially it was just to connect people sewing to people making masks,” said Monique Scheelar. “Then I guess it shifted from just a connection piece to really a hub of people sewing that are donating their time and resources, skills and material to a cause.”

Scheelar, whose boyfriend works in a hospital, heard about the mask shortage in the US and wanted to ensure — if PPE ran out here — he would have at least a cloth mask.

“I just kind of pulled my machine out of storage, and YouTubed my way through it and it worked out pretty well,” she said. 

Views on the effectiveness of homemade masks are mixed but health officials say they could help prevent people who are asymptomatic from spreading the virus to others.

“Of course, they're not actual PPE...but it's better than a bare face.”

Scheelar had her boyfriend try on different homemade masks to find the best pattern and has posted tutorials and tips on the Mask Makers YEG page.

“A really good mask will have a nose piece so that you can get a good fit over your nose. Possibly an area for a pocket for the filter.”

Mask making a family affair

Sherwood Park’s Cathy Douglas found the Mask Makers YEG group while researching how to make a mask for her husband.

After sewing masks for her immediate family, she and a friend decided to keep it going and both their husbands and sons got involved.

“Our families have matched mask for mask so if we get an order for 110, she does 55, I do 55,” she said.

“We want everyone who wants a mask to be able to get one.”

How to help

The group is seeking delivery drivers, sewers and supply donations.

“Elastic is really short right now. So, you know, if you're have a bunch of material in the basement that you're not going to use. I'm sure that we could put it to good use,” said Scheelar.

Anyone interested in receiving a mask is asked to fill out a form on the Mask Makers YEG Facebook page. Orders are prioritized based on need.

“If you're a healthcare professional or someone that has to work every day. We've had grocery clerk managers, we’ve had, you know, health care aides, so we really do try to based on your position in this pandemic,” said Scheelar.

Douglas says volunteering has given her family purpose during the pandemic.

“I encourage anybody out there who is feeling the same thing, that they’ve got more time on their hands, just find something to volunteer for because it really does feel good to be able to feel like you’re doing something to help.”