Julie Hessenius is one of 20 residents making medical masks for Virginia Gay Hospital and the Vinton Lutheran Home with assistance from Dawn Richards.

The need for medical masks in nursing homes and hospitals has grown as the healthcare industry battles back COVID-19, and one Vinton business has enlisted help from its patrons to help in that fight.

Viking Sewing, run by Dean Luze, last week was approached by Virginia Gay Hospital and Vinton Lutheran Home regarding the need for 500 masks each. Each provider needed a different type of style for their masks. In order to meet that need, Luze tried an idea.

“We put the word out that anybody who would make masks for Vinton would get the fabric for free,” Luze said “We ordered out elastic for the masks and figured out a way to get filters out of vacuum cleaners bags we sell, so they can be used for the masks.”

Once residents learned about this opportunity, Luze noticed people “pouring in” to pick up the fabric and taking it home to make the masks themselves. As of publication, over 20 Vinton residents are busy at work producing these masks and have already contributed 100 masks.

“We’ve had more calls from people interested too,” Luze said. “We’re trying to keep track of how many are being made, because we do have a goal of 500 for each facility. We have them sign up for how many they want to make and put that number in when they return. They are really just starting to come back in.”

Julie Hessenius is one Vinton resident producing masks from Viking Sewing’s materials. Hessenius works as the Benton County Clerk of Court and spends her free time making these masks as she sees a need for them. As of publication, she has made 64 masks with Dawn Richards assisting her with cutting the fabric.

“I think it’s amazing what they’re doing,” Hessenius said. “If somebody sees somebody else doing good, they’ll pay it forward too. The community is doing that and pulling through.”

Bonnie Peacock works part time at Virginia Gay’s clinic in Atkins, but is not working at the moment due to concerns about the virus. Instead, she is using her time to make masks for the hospital and Lutheran Home after a trip to Viking Sewing on Saturday. Since then, she has made 32 masks.

“[Healthcare workers] are wonderful people to work with, and they’re very devoted to their jobs,” Peacock said. “I want to help out in this town. It’s a good feeling to be able to give something back to the community.”

Luze and Viking Sewing will continue with this project in order to reach their goal. All they require is for anyone interested to come in and request fabric if they plan to make masks for either Virginia Gay Hospital or the Lutheran Home. For patrons looking to provide masks for Cedar Rapids or Waterloo healthcare facilities, the fabric is half off.

“There’s still more signing up all the time,” Luze said. “I think we’re in a time when we all need to pull together and do what we can do.”