Heroes with Hope crafts, distributes masks to essential employees at businesses around Carter County

Sierra Rains
Ardmore Police Department Sgt. Brice Woolly helps distribute masks to essential employees as a part of an initiative taken by Heroes with Hope. The nonprofit has been crafting reusable masks for essential employees around Carter County.

Workers that have been identified as essential to the infrastructure workforce have continued to clock in during the COVID-19 pandemic, sometimes equipped with disposable masks.

However, as the pandemic stretches on, disposable masks are a resource that has began to run low and a local nonprofit is seeking to address this need by providing reusable fabric masks to essential employees.

Heroes with Hope of Southern Oklahoma Executive Director Melissa Woolly said she and her two children began working to create reusable masks out of fabrics after recognizing the need locally.

Woolly said her husband, who works with the Ardmore Police Department, was out shopping when an employee mentioned that they had been wearing a disposable mask for several days. “How they weren’t able to wash them or clean them and they were having to use them every day,” she said.

Masks are presently in high demand and businesses can’t afford to order boxes of disposable masks every day.

While several groups have been donating masks to medical workers, Woolly said it occurred to her that there was also a need among essential workers at convenience stores, grocery stores and other business locations.

“We had kind of not really thought of that yet, so that’s obviously a concern for them and they’re out serving the public so we just thought it was important,” Woolly said.

Taking some of the fabric and supplies she already had at her home, along with fabric donated by a family member, Woolly and her children began crafting the masks soon after.

“So now they don’t have to use those disposable masks day in and day out, running the risk of them not being efficient,” Woolly said.

The masks are layered with fabric in all different colors and designs and can be washed or sanitized easily in order to be reused for the next shift. After running low on elastic Woolly said they began experimenting with using the fabric to make tie strings for the masks. “So we’re going to try our hands at that and see how it turns out.”

As of March 31, Woolly said they have been able to distribute 25 masks to essential employees through mail and by having officers from the Ardmore Police Department drop them off — and 15 more masks had already been completed by that afternoon.

“We probably have about 15 made today so we’ll hand those out, we’ll get those to town and get those handed out if they need them,” Woolly said.

Employees who have received the masks have been very thankful for the added protection Woolly said, and Heroes with Hope will continue to make the masks until supplies runs out or they are no longer needed.

“We’re all needing groceries, we’re all going to the convenience stores for gas, I feel like they’re putting themselves in jeopardy also with all the contact they’re making with people coming in and going out,” Woolly said. “I think that they deserve the protection just as much as the next, that’s why I felt like it was important that they’re able to protect themselves.”