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Can’t sew a face mask? A local 4-H member might have you covered

As part of the 4-H pledge, members commit their hands to larger service. In the time of COVID-19, that looks like hands busy sewing face masks and other supplies for communities across Florida.

In at least 18 counties, more than 100 youth plus several adult volunteers are at their sewing machines making face masks and other supplies for front line workers and those who can’t stay home, said Geralyn Sachs, regional specialized agent for the UF/IFAS Extension 4-H youth development program.

“During this challenging time, it is important that our 4-H youth continue to develop their sense of generosity by serving their community, and sewing projects certainly provide this opportunity,” said Sachs, who serves the central Florida region.

When stay at home orders first started rolling out, Sachs put out a call to 4-H members across the state inviting them to sew masks and other gear. The response was immediate and enthusiastic.

“Over the last year, we were already seeing an increased interest in sewing projects from our 4-H members, so I knew we’d have many youth who would be eager to participate. And today, with the CDC encouraging people to wear masks and practice social distancing, I think everyone sees that being able to sew at home is an important skill,” Sachs said.

Here are some highlights of 4-H members sewing projects from across the state:

Alachua

More than 20 4-H members spread over two clubs in Alachua County have been sewing masks for healthcare workers, said Amanda Morgan, 4-H agent for UF/IFAS Extension Alachua County.

“4-H’ers are using their can-do ingenuity to help their communities stay healthy during this time. This is nothing new to 4-H members and volunteers. We are thankful for volunteers who share their sewing skills with 4-H’ers,” Morgan said.

Duval

“One of our 4-H youth in Duval County is using his 3D printer to make masks for hospital workers in his local area, providing a vital need to others,” said Kelsey Haupt, a 4-H agent with UF/IFAS Extension Duval County.

“While masks are a priority, some of our youth are also helping with hemming and adjusting hospital gowns for workers. These acts are showing 4-H’ers acts of generosity and commitment to serving their community,” Haupt said.

Flagler

4-H volunteer Pat Cody and her two grandchildren, who are 4-H members, have made more than 200 mask that were distributed to the Flagler County community, said Alisha Hutchinson, 4-H agent with UF/IFAS Extension Flagler County.

“Myself, along with the 4-H program assistant and another leader, made a total of 24 mask with 12 being for children. These masks were also provided to anyone that needed them in our community,” she said.

Hillsborough

More than a dozen 4-H members have organized a mask making effort, providing masks to various locations in the Tampa Bay area, including MacDill Air Force Base, the local police department and reception staff at local doctor’s offices, and have sewn masks for children in the cardiology department at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, said Brandi Yancy, 4-H agent with UF/IFAS Extension Hillsborough County.

Martin

When 4-H members in Martin County were discussing how to support their community, one life-long member spoke up about the need for fabric masks at Cleveland Clinic/Martin Health. Youth who had supplies on hand quickly started making masks and made their first delivery to the health center at the end of April.

“Healthcare workers are required to wear coverings upon entry into every facility in Martin County, making these masks a necessity to perform their daily tasks. 4-H is contributing time and materials to assist our neighbors in this time of crisis,” said Natalie Parkell, 4-H agent with UF/IFAS Extension Martin County.

Orange

“Community service is such an integral part of 4-H that it is not surprising how 4-H members and families immediately look for ways to help others in times like these. 4-H members and volunteers have stepped up to use their ‘hands for larger service’ to create and distribute PPE across the county to those most in need,” said Melinda Souers, 4-H agent with UF/IFAS Extension Orange County.

Members’ projects include making masks, using a 3D printer to make plastic straps and organizing distribution of masks to healthcare workers, first responders and food bank workers, Souers said.

Osceola

“The community need in Osceola County right now is surgical caps with buttons, so that’s what our members have been focusing on,” said Jessica Sprain, 4-H agent for UF/IFAS Extension Osceola County. So far, 4-H members in the county have made and donated 150 caps.

Since Sprain could not teach her 4-H members how to make a surgical cap in person, she created a how-to video for making surgical caps at home, as well as printable step-by-step instructions.

Wakulla

“Making facemasks aligns with the core values of 4-H because it helps us put our hands to larger service for our community. Our 4-H members and leaders are used to being hands-on responders in times of need like hurricanes and finding a way to help our community while staying home to keep everyone safe was very important to Wakulla 4-H,” said Rachel Pienta, 4-H agent for UF/IFAS Extension Wakulla County.

4-H members Jasper Brooks, Mason Pace and Finnleigh Pace of Crawfordville have taken up sewing masks while learning from home, Pienta said. With the help of parents, they are making reversible fabric masks.

“It is their desire that no person go without a one just because they can’t afford it. So far, they have made close to twenty masks for family and friends in the community,” Pienta said.

Washington

4-H member Emma Weeks is “on a mask-making mission,” said Julie Dillard, 4-H agent for UF/IFAS Extension Washington County. “Her only stumbling block has been finding elastic. She’s been making, mailing, and dropping off masks to older folks she knows, friends, and local doctor’s offices.” So far, Emma has made 120 masks.

Service learning projects like these are at the core of 4-H, Dillard said.

“Seeing a community need, making a plan, and addressing that need is one way 4-H members are encouraged to give back to their community. We are fortunate that our community invests in the Washington County 4-H program; this is a way to return thanks to them.”

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