Brunko masks

INDEPENDENCE – In a proactive move, UnityPoint Health sent the word out they would welcome local seamstresses to help make masks.

As a retired registered nurse and a person who like to sew with lots of family and friends in health care, Kim Brunko answered the call.

“[An Allen Hospital nurse] asked for cloth masks to be worn over their N95s to extend their life, said Brunko. “Cloth can be washed and reused. I sent 20 of the specific Olson Mask to them and will continue making them this week.”

The “Olson” pattern and instructions are available online at under the “Who We Are – News & Publications” section. The design calls for two layers of 100 percent cotton fabric. It features a pocket for a disposable micron filter. According to Allen Hospital, they will provide the filter, double-sided tape, and hair ties to complete the masks after they are dropped off.

The fabric masks offer the benefit of being able to be washed and re-used as each health care worker will need to change their mask several times during their shifts as the mask becomes soiled or damp.

The Olson mask is named after 1930s legendary maker and nurse Lyla Mae Olson. It was developed by clinicians from UnityPoint Health and is being shared across the globe in the fight against COVID19.

In creating her masks, Brunko followed protocol by prewashing all of fabric, then packaged the finished masks in a Ziploc bag.

“I have been using elastic hair ties that will slip over your ears,” she said. “Elastic is impossible to get locally right now. I also will be able to make ties out of bias tape as my hair tie supply is used up.”

Brunko said local EMTs have also reached out to her.

“I have sewing friends across Iowa making masks too,” she said. “There are different styles. I am sticking with what was specifically requested right now.”

Allen Hospital Is Grateful

“Our communities are amazing!” said Regional Marketing Director Laura A. Rainey. “We are overwhelmed by the support we’re receiving as we respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last several days, we’ve heard from people across our footprint offering to help create homemade masks for our caregivers. The response has been so great. In the meantime, the very best way to support caregivers is to practice social distancing and staying home whenever possible. We’re grateful to be part of so many amazing communities!”

Allen Hospital states that the masks do not “have to be stylish – just functional. Non-matching fabrics, thread, elastics are fine. It just needs to be a well-sewn mask with no frayed edges or missed seams.”

If you are submitting masks, please follow the current protocol (which may change):

- Enclose completed masks in a closed plastic bag or closed plastic box

- The hospital will launder and inspect them prior to use so no need to wash before delivering

- Please deliver to Allen Hospital in Waterloo:

— Entrance 4 (EMERGENCY), open 24/7

— Entrance 8, open 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday

— Entrance 2, open 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday