Crafty family supplies masks to medical professionals

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Masks made by Amy Gleaton and her family to help medical workers deal with a mask shortage. (photo courtesy of Amy Gleaton)

CULLMAN, Ala. – Amy Gleaton, a career and technical education teacher at Cullman High School, is proving how crafty she can be in the face of a crisis. When she heard from a friend who is a medical professional about an office shortage of masks, she decided to help out.

Said Gleaton, “I’m not a seamstress by any means, but I can sew a stitch and keep a line straight. So, we started tinkering with the idea of what they needed and how they needed their masks. So I just kind of tinkered with the pattern I had, which was just directions- and I found it off of Pinterest- and I kind of made it into what she needed for her office, and just kind of went from there.”

As of Thursday morning, Gleaton estimated that she has made 60-70 masks, some of which went to her friend’s office. When that staff determined that they had enough, they sent the excess to UAB Hospital’s Intensive Care Unit. Gleaton has also begun making masks to send directly to UAB. Others have been sent to the Cullman County Commission on Aging for use by Meals on Wheels volunteers. 

Said Gleaton, “To me, it doesn’t really matter where they’re going, as long as they’re going somewhere that has that need.”

Finding that some medical professionals were using coffee filters for masks, Gleaton even modified her design with an opening that allows users to insert filters if they wish.

Family affair

Gleaton’s masks are, in fact, a family project. Daughters Ellie, 11, and Zoe, 7, help with cutting and sewing, while husband Kenny came up with the wire bracket to conform the mask to the bridge of the wearer’s nose.

Said Gleaton, “We’ve all had our hand in it, in some way, shape or form.”

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“I’m not the only one,” said Gleaton. “I had talked to Holly Hirsbrunner, who subs at the high school- and I knew she said she works with the theater program- so I contacted her and I said, ‘Hey, I know you sew. Can you help out?’ And she said, ‘Oh, we’re already doing some.’ And she’s doing some for different organizations around Cullman, including CRMC. And she’s like, ‘As soon as we get those done, we’ll start working on those for you, too.’

“It’s not just me. There are several hidden little crevices in Cullman that are pumping these out as fast as they can. I think Desperation Church is working on some, as well. I contacted them, and they responded wanting (Gleaton’s UAB contact’s) information, because they said they had a group working on some, as well, so I think there’s pockets of us. We don’t necessarily know everyone who’s doing them, but there’s pockets of us who are working on them, trying to get them out, just because there’s such a shortage.”

Gleaton has contacted several of the area churches senior groups with active sewing folks to pass along the idea of making masks.

“There’s not a whole lot that we can do when we’re in self-isolation, but that is one of those things that we can.”

As a teacher, Gleaton is working from home these days, with her kids by her side. She said of her new setting, “I’m blessed to have this time, and, to me, you almost feel like you need to contribute. I’ve got friends who are going into the medical offices and, regardless of the level that they’re in, whether they are working the reception desk for a doctor or they’re actually intubating a patient; regardless of the level, I’ve got them going in and, basically, to me that’s the front lines. They’re putting themselves and their family at risk, because when they go home, they have to get from the door to the shower, and all of their stuff in the wash, and they don’t want to contaminate their families.

“To me, it was almost like I felt like I needed to contribute something. And I think there’s a lot of people out there that feel the same way; that if you’re blessed to be in a position to have your requirements lessened a little during this time of isolation, you kind of feel the need to contribute in some way or another. And I do know that there’s a lot of moms and dads out there struggling to find balance as they’re shifting and changing- and I’m not necessarily talking about them; they’re working hard to find the balance- but a stay-at-home mom or a teacher who’s found some free time, or a retiree who’s sitting at home, the feel to be a part of something, and to contribute and to be helpful; I don’t think that ever really leaves us. 

“I think we want to be vital in our community. And so, that just kind of is what spurred me. And I almost feel guilty when I walk away from my table, because I sit there and I go, I’m so blessed to be in this position and I’ve got friends who are putting themselves in the crosshairs, and this could be helpful to them or a friend of theirs.”

Get involved!

If you are interested in making medical masks for friends of family members in the medical field, you can find the pattern used by Gleaton on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S9RWII2-5_4&feature=share along with several others, or search for “medical mask pattern” online.


A letter from Internal Medicine Associates of Cullman to UAB Hospital ICU staff informed the source of their new masks. (Photo courtesy of Amy Gleaton)

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