In Georgia, making face masks is a labor of love

By: David Ibata

With COVID-19 showing no signs of letting up, reusable face masks are in demand more than ever. A group in Georgia shows everyone can have a part creating the fabric protective coverings, even those who don’t sew.

“There are a lot of fantastic volunteers out there who want to do something other than sit home and worry about this pandemic,” said Gayle Hall, coordinator of the NW Metro Mask Makers. “Some of them like to sew, but we have quite a few very important volunteers who donate fabric and other materials, cut fabric or handle our pickups and deliveries.”

The group recently donated 500 handmade masks to The Salvation Army Metro Atlanta Area Command. They’ll be divvied up among The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs, Red Shield Services shelter for homeless residents, and Jonesboro, Georgia, Corps.

“We are trying to help those who have the greatest needs,” Hall said. “Sometimes we receive a need – in this case, The Salvation Army – that’s immediately posted to Facebook, and our volunteers respond.”

NW Metro Mask Makers – so named because it’s based northwest of Atlanta – is a spin-off of the North Alabama Mask Makers, which has created and given away close to 25,000 masks since March.

“After my sister invited me to a mask-making session in Huntsville (Alabama) and learned how to do it, Tiffany Watkins, coordinator of the North Alabama group, said, ‘We’ll set up your Facebook page, and you can start your own group in Georgia,’” Hall said. “They gave us fabric, assistance and everything else we needed to get started.”

That was in July. The group began with no volunteers – but that changed once word got out on Facebook and other social media. Dozens signed up, filling out a form saying where they’re located and if they need fabric, elastic thread and other mask-making goods. They take finished masks to a drop-off location – typically, a bin on someone’s front porch – and pick up any materials they might need.

The group asks for donations of 100 percent cotton, Hall said, as research has shown that’s the most comfortable, breathable and recommended material. They’re made in four sizes: extra small for children ages 3 to 6; small for kids 7 to 12; and medium and large for adults. Sewing one can take 15 to 45 minutes, depending on the maker’s skill and if the mask is fitted or pleated. All are double-layered, some are triple-layered and some have a pocket for a filter and/or nose wire.

NW Metro Mask Makers has donated more than 4,000 masks to postal workers, hospitals, community nonprofits, domestic violence and transitional housing shelters and many others. To view its Facebook page (registration required):

A total of 1,350 masks went to 20 Boys & Girls Clubs in the Atlanta area; that’s where Hall learned about the three clubs operated by The Salvation Army. An inquiry to Donna Roper, volunteer coordinator at Metro Atlanta Command, led to a request for even more masks.

“It’s been great working with Donna,” Hall said. “Today we donated 200 masks to the Marietta (Georgia) Corps. When Donna finds other groups in need, she notifies us. This helps us so much because our goal is to get masks to the people who need them the most.”

Hall credits her team’s hard-working and dedicated volunteers for the organization’s success.

“Many of our volunteers are high risk, or are living with someone who is high risk,” she said. Making masks “is one of the safest volunteer opportunities there is during this pandemic; you don’t have to contact anyone or go into an office. You can do something important and make a difference in the lives of others yet stay safe.”