When Elon sophomore Georgia Scarborough was forced to go home because of COVID-19, she knew she wanted to help other first responders combat the virus in any way she could.
So, she started making masks.
Scarborough is also an emergency medical technician in her hometown in Fauquier County, Virginia. She was hoping to serve her community as an EMT but chose not to work in order to put the safety of her family first.
“My mom is a cancer survivor, so she is immunocompromised. So it's not safe for me to do that at this time,” Scarborough said. “We can't go in because we don't want to risk our family ... It's hard for us because we feel that pull to go and help.”
Not being able to go out and help her community, however, started to make her feel guilty.
“It's a lose-lose situation. It's either I volunteer and I possibly risk my mom getting this terrible virus or I don't volunteer, and that's one less volunteer in the county,” Scarborough said.
So, Scarborough, along with her hometown best friend and fellow first responder, Addie Norden, found a creative way to make a difference. Together — but separately in their own homes — they started sewing masks, headbands and scrub caps to donate to their local essential workers and healthcare providers.
On their first day of accepting orders they received over 200 requests, largely for masks. As of now the pair said they have already received over 1000 orders and have completed over 600 of them. Following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, their masks have multiple layers and can be washed easily.
Their masks have three layers. The front and back layers are 100% cotton. The middle layer is pellon, a product that keeps the cotton layers from sticking together or becoming stiff if ironed or dried. The straps to tie on the mask are made of bias tape, a flexible and durable type of fabric. They also include a pipe cleaner to make the masks fit better around the wearer’s nose.
Everything Norden and Scarborough have been using has either been donated or purchased with donated money, which is why they have been giving everything away for free.
“We have been so lucky and blessed that we've had people see what we're doing and are super proud of us for it,” Scarborough said. “They've been very generous in donations, whether that's in supplies or whether that's monetary; we've gotten quite a bit of both. And because of that we're able to make these products free for healthcare providers.”
They even received a donation of 50 pairs of leggings which they have made into headbands they call “Ear-savers.” These allow people wearing masks for long periods of time to tie their mask around buttons placed on the headband rather than around their own ear, which can cause skin irritation.
And while Scarborough has been sewing away, she said it wasn’t something she did a lot before now.
“Everyone's kind of finding something that they once did a lot and [then] they never had time to do,” Scarborough said. “I'm thankful that it’s a skill that I have, and I can now apply it to help out the community even more.”
But when Scarborough and Norden started the project, other parts of their lives became more challenging.
“The biggest challenge has been balancing schoolwork and getting this huge project done, which has been a big challenge for both of us,” Scarborough said. “Thankfully, everyone who's ordered from us has been super understanding.”
But Scarborough and Norden plan to keep making masks until they run out of supplies or they stop getting orders. Scarborough said it’s the support from the community that keeps her going.
“It is amazing to me in a world where there seems to be so much darkness, and so much going wrong, how generous people are being,” Scarborough said.