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Masks for Marquette

Locals step up to aid health care workers

In her Marquette home, Pearl Larson sews reusable masks for health care workers. (Photo courtesy of Pearl Larson)

MARQUETTE — Much of the community is practicing social distancing in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, meaning many people are remaining in their homes except for essential travel to the grocery store or work.

Many may be taking the extra time to do some cleaning around the house, finish a book or take up a new hobby. But some area residents are spending their time inside making masks for local health care workers.

As more testing is done and confirmed cases rise each day, more and more personal protective equipment — such as swabs and surgical masks — is needed.

Pearl Larson, 75, and her husband Lowell Larson, 76, spent the weekend sewing reusable surgical masks to be donated to UP Health Systems-Marquette and UPHS-Bell.

“I’m very concerned with our whole situation, our whole medical situation right now,” Pearl Larson said with a shaking voice. “And I’m very concerned about the shortages.”

Pearl Larson and Lowell Larson have been especially careful amid the pandemic because of their age, but when they saw a Facebook post about the need for surgical masks locally and a sewing pattern to make them out of fabric, they knew they wanted to help.

“It’s been so hard for them to get a hold of masks right now, all of the personal protective equipment is hard to get a hold of right now,” Pearl Larson said. “We just felt if we could do something, we wanted to do it.”

The masks the Larsons are making follow a pattern that allows health care workers to insert a filter into the mask. While the pattern also calls for a twist tie to be inserted in the mask to be fitted over the nose, Lowell Larson is taking a new approach.

“Well, my husband was afraid the twist tie would break or wasn’t strong enough, so he looked at an already made mask and it had a little piece of aluminum. So he took off this morning to Menards and he found the aluminum he wanted. And he came back home and got the old paper cutter out and he’s been making those,” Pearl Larson explained.

The two hoped to complete 100 masks by the end of the weekend.

Even if just one person receives a mask who otherwise might not have had one, it was all worth it, Pearl Larson said.

“I just feel that the medical personnel, they’re at the front of the lines right now. This is a war and they’re at the front lines and they have to have all the equipment and stuff that we can possibly help,” she said.

The shortage of personal protective equipment is also felt by home nurses, veterinarians and nursing homes, she said. Larson hopes she can help anyone who may be in need.

“Not only for COVID-19. I want these health people to be able to stay away from just a plain cold or anything else …. We have to keep our health personnel healthy to help fight this enemy,” she said.

Sewing has always been a hobby for Larson, who owned and operated Marquette Embroidery for over 29 years, but even those with very minimal sewing skills could make the masks, she said.

Larson encouraged all to show support for the medical community during this challenging time.

“We must follow all recommendations to flatten the curve and when we are able, we must step up and use our skills and resources whenever an opportunity arises,” she said.

As Larson completes each mask, she says a prayer “that God will protect the wearer.”

“Even if they don’t use them, I want them to know that they’re supported and if they see a pile of masks and even if they don’t use them, I still think they’re going to know people are out there pulling for them,” she said.

Those interested in donating supplies or making masks can find more information, including the sewing pattern, on the Facebook group “Masks for Marquette.”

A GoFundMe account has been created for donations to the cause and can be found by searching “Masks for Marquette.”

Trinity Carey can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. Her email address is tcarey@miningjournal.net.

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