• John McGary, Woodford Sun Editor

Midway volunteers making 1,500-plus masks

The owners of Midway Makers Market are making the proverbial lemonade from the lemon that is the COVID-19 pandemic – with lots of help from local volunteers. The shop at 130 East Main Street is co-owned by Amy Bowman and Ann Parks, and features handmade products by about 40 Kentucky small businesses. Bowman said before it and many other Kentucky businesses were shut down by the governor, the market was getting calls from people who wanted to know if they had protective masks. Meanwhile, they’d noticed that Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift was using his bully pulpit to ask people to abide by social distancing and other rules designed to slow the spread of the virus, Bowman said. “And we were concerned that if we started making face masks, that people would feel more comfortable going out and being less concerned about social distancing,” she said. They called Vandegrift, who agreed that the masks could provide a sense of false security. “But we also agreed that at some point, it looked like the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) was going to recommend that everyone wear them,” Bowman said – and when that happened, Midway residents would drive elsewhere to get them and return, possibly, with the virus. Bowman and Parks put the word out on the “Midway Musings” Facebook page: they were going into the mask-making business, free of charge. After Vandegrift praised the project at the April 6 city council meeting and said he’d committed $3,000 in city funds to pay for the supplies, Bowman and company were “inundated with wonderful volunteers.” They created a three-stage process designed to make masks for each Midway citizen and area health care professionals – “using our volunteers in a way that kept everyone safe at home and respected social distancing,” Bowman said. Dozens signed up for various duties, a Facebook group called “Project Healthy Midway” was created, and teams were formed to create something of an at-home assembly line. “We’ve got people who cut the fabric for us, people who have been helping to sew it together, and then we have a third team who kind of finish it off – cut the threads and get it ready,” Bowman said. The teams pick up and drop off the items in bins outside the market, and the items are sanitized between shifts, Bowman said. “When the final product gets dropped off to us, we sanitize it again and then we have plastic bags that we put them in, and an insert that was (printed and) donated by a local company, Diamond Graphics …” Bowan said. The insert itself is valuable, with information on how to protect yourself from COVID-19 and a reminder that the mask is not the first line of defense, she said. Some of the finished masks have pockets with room for a filter, and some will be worn by health care professionals facing scarcities of M-95 masks over their M-95 masks. Bowman said their new mission also helps her avoid thinking about the long-term fate of the business she and Parks opened last August. “It is not business as usual, as you can imagine. So this has definitely been something for us to do to keep ourselves busy and to stay in touch with our community … Because it’s really hard when you walk down the street and all the businesses are closed – it’s sad. But we know this is what we need to do to keep our community safe,” Bowman said. Midway city employees began handing out the masks at City Hall Monday and will continue until they run out, according to Cindy Foster, the city clerk. “It’s been crazy,” she said, noting they’ve received requests for the masks from health care workers in Danville and Owensboro, but will fulfill their mission of providing one for every Midway resident first. Experts have said the chief benefit of the cloth masks is to limit the amount of shedding via coughs, sneezes and exhales by an infected person. Regardless, they are recommended by the CDC, and though there will likely be way no way to know for sure, it’s possible the work of Project Healthy Midway will prevent people from being infected – and may even save a life or two. “It is a great feeling. I mean, that’s why we’re all doing this,” Bowman said. “We’re going to keep making masks.”

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