Paige Smith is happy to see people working together to make the best of a bad situation.

“I love it. I absolutely love it. It makes me want to cry,” the Sharon woman said on Thursday.

She recently started a Facebook group to help spread the word that local nursing homes and medical professionals are in need of face masks to help protect against COVID-19.

Smith helped create the “Coronavirus Surgical Mask Group Project: NW PA” group on March 20. As of Thursday, it had 160 members.

“I think it’s a really promising thing,” she said of the effort.

When Smith heard healthcare facilities were running low on face masks, she started calling to see how she could help.

Several nursing homes, including Clepper Manor in Sharon and Nugent’s in Hermitage, said they needed cloth face masks.

“I hit the ground running,” she said.

Smith started working with donated material, and while the masks are not made to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations, she said they’re sufficient to help provide some protection, and they are washable and reusable.

A few other residents are helping her run the group and organize volunteers who are aiming to sew 1,000 masks.

She said people from all over the county have been sharing sewing skills and materials, and volunteers who don’t know how to use a sewing machine can help cut fabric.

“Last night I spent time cutting out 100 masks,” she said.

The Facebook group also serves as an online staging place where volunteers can share tips and advice, details on where to find fabric, elastic and patterns, and to check in with page administrators on where to send the completed masks.

Smith is accepting donations of 100 percent cotton fabric with a tight weave, elastic that measures one-eighth of an inch, shoestring-type material, and cotton T-shirts that can be repurposed for masks.

The masks will be put to a wide range of uses, including nursing homes, doctors’ offices, emergency rooms and retail establishments.

For more information, visit the Facebook group, message Paige Smith, or call her at 724-866-4262.

Martin and her Facebook group aren’t working alone. In Grove City, Carrie Martin is spearheading efforts to make 150 masks for donation.

“I would welcome help,” she said.

She’s made about 50 so far, including some that close with ties, which take longer to assemble than using elastic.

Martin said she ran out of elastic at one point, and had to order more online.

She is using a pattern that has a pocket for a filter, and said that cotton is the best material.

When the masks are done, she puts them in the dryer on high heat, then loads them into bags while wearing gloves.

Martin enjoys sewing, and she already had a lot of fabric at home.

“They’re all bright colors,” she said.

It’s an easy way to help, and she’s excited to see others doing the same.

“It’s amazing,” Martin said.

To contact Carrie Martin, email her at andreacarolinemartin@hotmail.com

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