LIHU‘E — In Hawai‘i and on the mainland, face masks are hard to find in the stores or online, and many facilities like hospitals are in need of them because their staffs are working on the front-lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Kaua‘i, Discount Fabric Warehouse is doing its part by starting a project that will accomplish two goals — supplying face masks to local health-care workers and giving those sheltering at home a project.
Bill Miller, owner of Discount Fabric Warehouse, suggested to all of his store managers and employees on each island to encourage their community to keep sewing, create face masks and donate them to organizations in need.
DFW’s Kaua‘i store Manager Erika Hessheimer says people are interested.
“There has been a huge amount of people coming in to buy fabric to create them. And a lot of organizations on Kaua‘i have contacted us asking us for masks,” Hessheimer said. “If people want to donate fabric for other people to use to create face masks, they can drop it off to our warehouse,” located on Kuhio Highway across from the Lihu‘e Theater senior apartments.
She continued: “This week we are getting more elastic, and (more) early next week. Those are on a first-come, first-serve basis, and we always run out when they get here. Also, people can call the store, (come in) four at a time and use our large classroom to sew together if they want to make face masks as a group while practicing social distancing because our room is pretty large.”
Teresa Nero, wife of Kaua‘i Police Department officer Randall Nero and a staff member at the Kaua‘i Emergency Management Agency, got her sewing machine out and created a stack of black masks with blue stripes for her husband and his co-workers to use while on duty.
“I started sewing when I was a kid. Took sewing lessons from Mrs. Fujii at the old Kalaheo Japanese School when it existed before Iniki,” Teresa Nero said
“I haven’t sewn in a long time. Just decided to do so because of the mask shortage for our front-line workers. The first people to receive my masks are KPD officers. I’ll make as many as I can, dependent upon supply availability.”
Nero is also working with another officer’s wife, Barbara Green, who is a well-known seamstress on Kaua‘i.
“Through the generosity of a silent Kaua‘i donor and collaborative effort of Kaua‘i seamstresses I am able to contribute face masks for our cherished Kaua‘i community,” Green said. “Though these masks are not N95. We have reached a stage in the current pandemic that requires us to protect our community at any level possible from the spread of airborne pathogens.”
She continued: “These masks will be donated to various organizations such as KEO (Kaua‘i Economic Opportunity), Kilauea Ag Farm, and kupuna on Kaua‘i.”
For those interested in starting their own fabric face mask donations, Discount Fabric Warehouse recommends using 100% cotton fabric when creating face masks and elastic when available at stores.
Officer Nero is proud of his wife, and appreciates her concerns for him and his team. He wears his fabric face mask with pride as he patrols the streets of Kaua‘i, he said.
“My wife is amazing, and cares for not just my health and safety but for all my co-workers who puts themselves in harm’s way, especially with this invisible suspect,” Nero said.
Organizations that would like to request masks can do so by e-mailing DFW at firstname.lastname@example.org, or calling 246-2739.
Stephanie Shinno, features and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or email@example.com.