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Stuart is making a difference one mask at a time

In these uncertain times, it is nice to know good deeds, acts of kindness and reaching out to those in need are still alive and well.

This is evident in our own community.

For the past few days, Shirley Stuart has been making surgical masks in an effort to help replenish where supplies are running low.

The Vicksburg resident said she got the idea after seeing a Facebook post where others were making surgical masks and said, “Well shoot, I can do that.”

However, before she started stitching, Stuart inquired as to the safety of this do-it-yourself project.

After learning the Centers For Disease Control was loosening their guidelines, allowing for these “homemade” masks that would be used for protection against COVID-19, her sewing machine began whirling.

Stuart, who has been a long-time educator and is active in her church, said not only was she glad to help others during the COVID-19 panedemic, having the ability to make surgical masks had also become personal.

Stuart’s future daughter-in-law, Lexi Burleigh works in the University Medical Center’s neurology intensive care unit.

“(Burleigh) said, ‘They’re telling us we probably need to start wearing bandanas every day for a mask,’” Stuart said.

This prompted Stuart to tell Burleigh she could make them masks.

“My initial goal was to make sure everybody in her unit had one,” Stuart said, “And there are 50 people in her unit.”

Since she began making the masks, Stuart said, others have reached out to her including good friends who have a wound care clinic in Vicksburg.

“They have requested some because they are about to run out,” Stuart said.

Also, a friend who works at the University of Mississippi Medical Center has requested masks for the 101 employees who work in the emergency room.

“It’s crazy how many people have reached out,” Stuart said, “And now I am getting request after request after request.”

To date, Stuart said she had made about 50 masks.

Making the surgical masks is labor-intensive, Stuart said, and even as a seasoned seamstress, she said it takes her about 15 minutes to make one from start to finish.

Stuart said she is not charging for the masks since most of the material she is using has been in storage at her home.

“The supplies mean nothing to me. I am just glad they are going for something,” she said.

While there is plenty of fabric at her disposal, Stuart said she is running low on elastic.

“I’ve ordered some more, but don’t know how long it will take to come in,” she said.

Stuart said it feels good to know she is able to do something positive during this worldwide crisis.

“It’s just a small little gesture, but it just makes you feel so good on the inside,” she said. “You know, I think about how my mom, years ago when I was in fourth grade, taught me how to sew. And now how many years later is that little something my mom gave me turning around and being able to give that back to someone else.”

Stuart said she is also excited to see how people are coming together and sharing their talents.

“It means something and this is something critical that can actually be used and I’m excited to just be a tiny little speck of this,” she said.

For those who may be interested in sharing their sewing talents, Stuart shared a website with instructions. Visit https://buttoncounter.com. Also, on Stuart’s Facebook page, she gives instructions on how to construct a mask.

Donations of fabric and ¼ -inch elastic are also appreciated.

Stuart said they can be dropped off at the Alpha Insurance-Stuart Agency located at 1980 S. Frontage Road, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“The ladies at the office will come out for drive-ups,” she said.

Like Stuart, there are others in our community and around the country who are making surgical masks to aid those serving on the front lines as health care providers and first responders.

Stuart said she plans to continue her efforts.

“I will sew until I run out of supplies,” she said.