As wearing a mask becomes more commonplace and Pettis County begins to slowly reopen, Bothwell Regional Health Center has partnered with local businesses, health care agencies, churches and nonprofits to create a mask for as many Sedalia citizens as possible.
Bothwell has received numerous donations of masks from the community, which are being used for staff, patients and visitors. However, Chief Nursing Officer Rose McMullin decided to take that a step further and has launched a campaign to make and distribute at least 20,000 masks for people in the community.
“The big thing is, people want life to go back to normal and if everybody wears one, we just protect each other,” McMullin said. “If we can get that to where it’s more stable, we won’t have people coming in and dying of this.
“We haven’t been hit as hard as New York and other places but part of the reason is we’ve taken a lot of steps they didn’t have time to take. Simple things like hand washing, social distancing, wearing the mask, we need to make it part of our culture somewhat so we can get over this. We want our businesses to thrive and have to contact each other safely. What we want to do is try to help everybody and promote (wearing a mask).”
McMullin and her administrative assistant, Jan Henson, who is a seamstress and quilter herself, have been contacting partners across west-central Missouri to gather supplies, donations and volunteers.
Bothwell has been purchasing the mask material through funds from a variety of sources and McMullin said they’ve tried to locally purchase those items as much as possible. Labor has been free thanks to a large army of volunteers. McMullin said her current team of volunteer sewers is producing about 150 masks per week.
Once masks are made, they are taken to the Pettis County Health Center to be placed in bags with info cards that list tips on wearing and cleaning masks.
“It has been surprising how people have donated their time,” McMullin said. “At first, people were donating material and funds to buy material now. It’s amazing how much the community people have pulled together and donated and are still willing to do that. I think we need to keep that up.”
The first round of community masks was purchased with funds Katy Trail Community Health received as part of the federal coronavirus relief bill. The funding must be used to support COVID-19 testing along with community education and prevention. CEO Chris Stewart said some of that funding will likely be going to help Morgan, Benton and Saline counties in their efforts as well. She said her staff began talking this week about producing masks for other Katy Trail locations.
“We want to slow the spread of the disease,” Stewart said. “In the past week, we’ve seen a significant increase in cases in Pettis County. What we know is that mask-wearing in public, especially if everybody wears a mask, slows the spread or even can prevent the spread of the disease. That’s what we want to do.”
Eventually, the United Way of Pettis County was brought into the fold. Executive Director Staci Harrison has been hosting weekly meetings with service organizations during the pandemic for short- and long-term planning, primarily about food security and obtaining masks. She said Broadway Presbyterian Church had been making masks for the last two months for Meals on Wheels volunteers and other organizations.
When she heard about Bothwell’s mask campaign from Stewart, she said “we need to work together.” Now all of UWPC’s efforts are being funneled to Bothwell’s campaign. She said it’ll take a “multifaceted approach” to reach Bothwell’s goal.
“That’s what’s been neat about being in a time of responding to COVID-19, it’s another example of our community coming together and building on the strengths of each other,” Harrison said. “Both groups for two months now collectively have made thousands of masks that are being distributed throughout Pettis County and continue to make masks. Bothwell has a goal of a minimum of 20,000 masks. What we’re doing is trying to support them in that goal. The more we can get people wearing masks, the better.”
Broadway Presbyterian volunteers are sewing masks and making kits with supplies to create 10 masks for other sewers to work on. Harrison said material is still needed such as fabric, elastic and pipe cleaners. Monetary donations are being accepted through UWPC’s COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund at spcuw.org. Harrison said mask patterns are also on the website.
McMullin also approached the Bothwell Foundation about providing funding to purchase masks and supplies.
“One of the missions of the foundation is to support the health of the community and obviously with COVID-19 that fits hand in hand,” foundation Executive Director Lauren Thiel-Payne said. “It’s something important to us to keep the community safe and help out the hospital and try as much as possible to keep cases low in Pettis and Benton counties.”
Thiel-Payne said a $5 donation will help produce one cloth mask. The foundation is talking with community members and foundation donors to help with the effort. Thiel-Payne said sponsor funds from the canceled Lub Dub 5K will go toward masks for the community.
Bothwell, the Pettis County Health Center and Katy Trail are working to identify locations where masks could be distributed in addition to the hospital and health center. McMullin said some of the first local businesses to receive masks for distribution will be Pettis County pharmacies. She said they’ve been on board with the idea as many have customers asking daily about their mask supply. Masks will be offered to individuals for free but donations will be accepted, which will be used to make more masks.
McMullin said she has been talking with pharmacies in Cole Camp and Warsaw too, and masks will be given to Retrieving Freedom for their dog trainers. Other businesses have contacted Bothwell and McMullin said any business in need of masks or willing to be a distribution point can contact any of the agencies involved in the effort.
Volunteers are needed to sew masks, package masks in bags, and distribute masks. To make a monetary donation, visit brhc.org/foundation. To make a supplies donation or to volunteer, contact Bothwell at 660-827-9447.