Arkansas Extension Homemakers Council organizations have a long history of organizing and taking action, especially during times of crisis. They ran soup kitchens during the flu epidemic of 1918, canned vegetables during the flood of 1927 and throughout the Great Depression, and planted victory gardens to increase food supply during World War II.
As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold, EHC clubs found a new way to serve their communities: sewing cloth face masks that can offer some protection to those who have to be out in public.
The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention now recommends that people wear face coverings in public settings, such as grocery stores and pharmacies, where it is difficult to maintain social distancing.
The masks can:
• Prevent a person from touching their nose and mouth and spreading germs from their hands;
• Protect one’s nose and mouth from large infected respiratory droplets from other people’s sneezes and coughs, but they don’t protect against tiny aerosol particles;
• Keep others safe by limiting the transfer of infected respiratory drops from a person’s coughs and sneezes onto surfaces that others may touch.
Members of the Sylvan Hills Extension Homemakers Club in Pulaski County teamed up with a Sunday school class at Second Baptist Church Little Rock, where several EHC club members attend.
Calling themselves the “Mask Warriors,” the group has sewn more than 1,000 masks that have been donated to Baptist Health Medical Center in North Little Rock, St. Vincent Rehab, Robinson Nursing Home, Jericho Way, Access Therapy, the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Arkansas Children’s Hospital and the Salvation Army.
“It all started with a casual conversation with a friend who is a chaplain who was talking about the shortage of masks,” EHC member Leatrice Klutts of Sherwood said. “There are many who have provided supplies, a sewing machine and pick-up and delivery. Our club is proud of the response from Second Baptist Church and the members of the Sylvan Hills EHC. Neither group could have done it alone.”
Except for $22 in start-up costs, the group used donated materials for their effort, Klutts said.
With more than 350 clubs and 4,400 members in Arkansas, EHC members have sewn more than 10,000 masks statewide. Arkansas 4-H clubs also have contributed to the stockpile.
Washington County EHC club members made 400 masks benefitting Mana Breast Center, Encompass Nursing Homes, and several local clinics.
Pike County EHC made 162 masks for local hospitals, nursing homes, fire departments and first responders. The volunteers spent 53 hours making the masks, Pike County Extension agent Heather Jackson said.
Logan County’s EHC volunteers also made masks for their local first responders. They also created a pattern with step-by-step photo instructions to teach other volunteers, county agent Charla Hammonds said.
Garland County EHC volunteers created nearly 300 masks for Elite Home Health, Superior Senior Care, CHI St. Vincent, Health Star - Lake Hamilton West Clinic, the Area Agency on Aging and Healthy Connections.
To learn how to get involved with Extension Homemaker Clubs, contact a local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit wwgw.uaex.edu. To find COVID-19 resources, visit uaex.edu/COVID19.
To see the CDC’s mask guidelines, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without discrimination.
— Tracy Courage is with the U of A System Division of Agriculture.