Sew many masks: Volunteers produce 2,000 for hospitals, EMS

Organizers find ways to help in the time of COVID-19
April 3, 2020

More than 60 volunteers across the area are busy sewing protective, cloth face masks for Beebe Healthcare in Lewes, Nanticoke Memorial Hospital in Seaford and Sussex County Emergency Medical Services.

Over the past three weeks, the volunteers, many who also sew duffel bags for foster children, have completed more than 2,000 masks, with many more coming, says Jan Semmel, who got the idea after seeing a story on TV about a similar group. “I knew we needed to do this now. Since we started, it has exploded,” she said, as she presented hundreds of masks to a volunteer from Nanticoke, who drove from Seaford to pick them up.

“We picked up 500 last week,” said Kim Ostroski of NMH. “Everyone at Nanticoke really appreciates what they are doing. I know a lot of people feel helpless, and this is a way for them to contribute.”

Hilda Adams, who helps coordinate the project with Semmel, said they transitioned from sewing duffel bags to masks.

Semmel said she makes an effort to comply with social distancing recommendations, so donations and mask drop-offs are left on the front porch of her Villages of Five Points home.

“These not only help the medical community but also those coming to the hospital. Plus, it makes those sewing the masks feel good,” Semmel said.

While EMS and the hospitals provide some material, donations of cotton material and T-shirts are needed and can be dropped off at 16878 N. Hunters Run in the Villages of Five Points, off Old Orchard Road.

Contact Adams at 302-291-2922 or at for more information.

Volunteers support several groups including Lower Delaware Duffel Bags Project, Volunteer 50+ program and Sussex County VolDE 50+ Advisory Council.

Editor’s note: Official policy on masks is changing. With the most effective masks, N95 masks, in short supply, they should be reserved for healthcare workers on the front lines. Cloth masks, while less effective in preventing the spread of the virus, still provide a protective barrier for people when they go out in public. Wearing a cloth mask, scarf or bandana when out in public is expected to soon become recommended policy for everyone.

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