This spring, a Boothbay woman’s sewing hobby has turned into a security blanket for the local community. For the past couple months, Jennifer Manson, 28, has sewn over 500 free face masks to protect her friends, family and community from the coronavirus. Manson began sewing in 2018. She always wanted to sew, but never really had the time. But she reached a point in her life where time wasn’t a factor. Manson was walking to a doctor’s appointment when she had an epiphany. “I walked by the Community Center and saw the sewing room, and decided I was going to do it.”
Manson met with Angel Ames and Bobbie Reed who taught her the basics. Manson began sewing a blanket, moved on to an apron and, finally, a quilt. As her skills improved, so did her ambition to sew more items. By now, the world coronavirus pandemic hit, and there was an instant need for personal protective equipment like face masks.
In March, Manson shifted her hobby to making hundreds of masks for the community, and for a group of Florida nurses. Gov. Janet Mills’ order requiring face masks in public began April 1 and the ensuing days resulted in an increased demand for Manson’s services. “I can’t hardly keep up. I started donating face masks to anyone who needed one. I’ve already made and delivered over 500 face masks, and I’m working on 300 more, right now,” she said. On April 30, community members seeking to buy a face mask at the Boothbay Harbor Walgreen’s learned the personal protective device was sold out.
As supplies dwindled, Manson and other Community Center sewers started making cloth face masks to provide protection for the public. The sewers checked the website of the Brunswick hospital, Midcoast Hospital, for the Center for Disease Control standards in making face masks. They intended on donating their homemade masks to health care providers, but health care professionals require face masks which meet industry standards, so the sewers provided their masks to community members looking for protection against the airborne virus.
“So we donated them to the public. We had a request from the schools and donated them to the Boothbay schools’ cooks and maintenance staff. I’m also taking orders on Facebook and by phone,” Manson said. As demand increased, Manson began seeking donations to cover costs. She will still donate masks free of charge, but said there is a $3 per mask cost for materials. “Elastic bands are the most expensive part. I deliver them, too, so there is a cost associated with that. Last week, Gov. Mills issued her Stay Safer at Home order which included having everyone wear a face mask in public.
The public can order a face mask by contacting Manson at 207-350-0429 or on her Facebook page. Manson will either deliver face masks into a client’s mailbox or to their home.