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Palm City woman hand sews masks for medical professionals on the front lines

"They are the true heroes."
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Posted at 4:36 PM, Apr 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-08 20:46:23-04

PALM CITY, Fla. — During this pandemic, many people are finding a way to help their community without leaving their homes. LaVerne Phelps is one example of someone who is using her talents to make a difference.

The retired home economics teacher from Palm City, who's been sewing for more than 60 years, spends her free time making face masks, then gives them away to medical and health care professionals who need them.

The idea started with LaVerne needing a mask herself. She says, "I do have a lung disorder and tried to go online to see if I could possibly find some masks. As with everything else, of course, there was none. So I thought why not make some."

LaVerne found a sewing pattern for face masks designed after the N95 mask doctors and nurses wear. She says her washable masks fit under an N95 mask, over it or by itself. She recruited her husband Jim to help her make the masks.

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Jim Phelps says, "She said if you would pin this in and turn them around for me, you're going to speed it up and we've got it down to 20 to 25 minutes per mask."

In just a matter of weeks, LaVerne and Jim have made over 300 face masks and they have no plans of stopping. LaVerne says she has plenty of fabric and time but is short on elastic. "We have had to resort to the thinner elastic because that's all I had. I had a 144 yard bolt of 1/4 inch and used it up as you can see in 300 masks."

Since LaVerne and Jim are "safer at home", volunteers have stepped in to distribute their masks. Some are now being worn by staff at Hematology and Oncology Associates of the Palm Beaches, the staff at a Boynton Beach nursing home, and 100 were mailed to New York City to help doctors and nurses on the frontlines there.

"They are the true heroes," says LaVerne, "I'm making them because I don't want to get out and get that (coronavirus) I just hope everyone is staying put in their homes as well."

If you know of medical professionals who are in need of a mask, message Kelley Dunn on Facebook.