More than 300 people from across Western New York have banded together to sew masks for local health care providers.

Gina Guido-Redden, a resident of Olcott, started the group called Operation Sewing Squad after seeing a hospital in California call out for help with medical supplies and finding a CDC pattern of masks that could be manufactured at home. She called up Eastern Niagara Hospital and was told the hospital would accept donations. 

“They said absolutely and thank you so much,”

Although Guido-Redden resides in Olcott, the masks are being made all over the Western New York area. 

“I’m not sure where we don’t have people coming from at this point,” Guido-Redden said, adding that people are coming from places all over like Buffalo, Blasdell and Ransomville.  

A room has been set up inside her residence to sort the material and then people come to pick it up and sew at their residences.  

Eastern Niagara CEO Anne McCaffrey said the hospital has masks right now, but they are going quickly. 

“We have masks as do hospitals in the Buffalo region, but we know that the rate at which we are using those masks is exceeding the supply. So we have masks but they are going quickly. And we want our staff to be protected. And we want our patients to be protected,” McCaffrey said. “So, the concern throughout the entire system in New York state is that there is an inadequate supply of masks right now.” 

Some of the hospitals currently receiving the supplies are Eastern Niagara Hospital and Catholic Health. Guido-Redden said she hopes to make enough to supply Niagara Hospice and as many area nursing homes as possible. The masks are provided to hospitals for free. 

All of the supplies are donated and the volunteers then sew the masks themselves in compliance with the necessary safety and sterilization processes.

“We are sewing masks that comply with CDC’s emergency protocols, 100% cotton so that they can be sterilized in the hospitals and re-used. Each hospital has given us an internal contact so that they can be introduced safely into the facility’s laundry and sterilization processes safely,” Guido-Redden said. “We are all sewing remotely from each other, and complying with social distancing policies. We are taking every precaution we know how to take, including using safe drop off points, and spraying the bags for transfer with Lysol, and when possible, using paper bags. You further reduce risk by using gloves when we receive fabric and putting everything in the wash before handling.”

Guido-Redden thanked local retailers like Fabric Warehouse, Marie’s Sewing Center and Mia & Love for their generous donations.

The group has made 300 masks currently, and has a goal of 5,000. They have had to wait for elastic to get to that goal though. 

ENH Spokesperson Carolyn Moore thanked Guido-Redden and her group for the masks. 

“We are so grateful for the incredible response of these donations. We’ve received a number of them (Monday) and we also are receiving donations from people throughout the community,” Moore said. 

McCaffrey, a former mayor, echoed Moore’s thoughts saying she is always surprised with the compassion the community shows in tough times. 

“My phone rang all weekend long from community members to civic leaders, business leaders, retired employees wanting to know how they could assist knowing the crisis that we’re facing ... The out showing of support from our community is unbelievable,” McCaffrey said. 

Anyone interested in donated materials can contact Guido-Redden at 550-2579 or gguidoredden@codacorpusa.com. Anyone who would like to join in sewing can use either contact Guido-Redden or join the Facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/OperationSewingSquad/about

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