Task for masks

Godolphin among Town mask producers during severe, critical shortages

In true Tennessee Volunteer fashion, ladies from around the community tirelessly have been sewing hundreds of cloth face masks to fulfill critical shortages.

One of the ladies leading the charge is longtime quilter Dottie Godolphin of Farragut, who as of Monday, April 6, personally had sewn nearly 200 masks while overseeing a sewing group, Mercy Masks, which has made more than 1,700 of the facial virus-protective coverings.

Godolphin said an acquaintance reached out to her via social media during the first few days of the of the coronavirus pandemic, asking if she would make some masks for a facility in North Carolina, and she readily agreed.

“I can do this,” she responded excitedly. “I’ve got lots of fabric — I’m a quilter.”

She went to work, not only cutting out masks and sewing them but also reaching out to others in one of her quilting groups, Knox Area Quilting Friends, where members also agreed to help.

Godolphin contacted her physician, Dr. Lisa Bowling, who works at Summit Medical Group’s Parkwest office and is a fellow quilter, to see if she could use some in her office.

“She sent me a message on Facebook and asked if we could use the donation,” said Bowling, who added she was “thrilled” with the offer. “We still have enough medical masks right now, but we don’t know what might happen down the road, and it very well could be that we end up without the supplies we will need.

“And, with the overall shortage of masks in the U.S., it’s great to have washable masks and thus preserve some of our supplies.”

Initially, doctors, scientists and even the Centers for Disease Control did not agree that cloth masks could possibly mitigate the spread of the disease, but within the last week the tides have changed. An op/ed piece by research scientist Jeremy Howard published Saturday, March 28, in the Washington Post suggested the use of any kind of facial mask could help, while last weekend the CDC recommended “everyone use cloth masks in public.”

“The problem is that a person can be contagious with COVID before they even start exhibiting symptoms,” Bowling said, noting, “I have started wearing a mask while I see patients so that I won’t pass anything to patients, should I get the virus.”

She said from the beginning she “absolutely believes” the masks made by Godolphin could help prevent spreading COVID-19.

“Plus the social distancing and frequent hand washing of course,” she added.

Bowling was among the first recipients, with Dottie’s husband, Jerry, delivering 40 masks Wednesday, March 25, and 40 more a few days later.

The couple made a second delivery Thursday, March 26, providing 80 masks to Godolphin’s former employer, now known as MedNax, a Fort Sanders-based anesthesiology group. Knox Area Quilting Friends member Denise Kandziolka provided 15 of that number.

Friends and acquaintances steadily have bombarded Godolphin over the last few weeks, asking her either to make masks or offering to help with the task.

“I had one lady offer me a big bag of fabric; someone else offered up some elastic,” she said. “One lady said she couldn’t sew, but she could cut fabric, while another lady said her mom needed something to do with her hands, and offered her help, as well.”

Dottie and Jerry devised written instructions to make the masks and are sharing them via e-mail: godolphin23@gmail.com.

All masks made by Mercy Masks are being donated wherever needed, free of charge, and while Dottie has had enough fabric donated she is in critical need for seamstresses.

Anyone interested in helping may e-mail the couple.

“We’ve had a lot of people step up and offer to help,” Jerry said.

“It’s really been a community effort.”