To look at it from Casco Bay, South Freeport, Maine looks like always: quaint and virus-free. But the quiet streets and abandoned docks tell a different story.
The threat posed by COVID-19 can also appear as dense here as Maine’s famous fog. And yet the wind has blown something else in … generosity.
Fabric bolts and other materials have appeared at North Sails since it became known that owner Eric Baldwin no longer sewed sails, but instead made masks.
Adriane Gibson showed the fabric that she had donated: “The Black Watch plaid that was there for my son’s bedroom. And when he saw everything that was going on and he was only six, he said: ‘Mom, I think someone needs it more than I do. ‘”
Baldwin recalled, “I came into the store one morning and there was a Ziploc bag with about 20 feet of elastic in the door that someone had in its drawer. And they said, ‘We hope you can use that.’ “
Baldwin and his partner Karen Haley started making masks long before the CDC recommended wearing them. And now everyone wants to help, including a family that can’t even sew. According to Haley, “she and her husband and daughter cut out pieces at home. And I put one bag down and exchange another bag of cut pieces – to keep our social distance.”
Meanwhile, Sandy Magner in Middletown, New Jersey, began making masks for chemotherapy patients in her guest room who could not receive life-saving treatments without them.
Correspondent Lee Cowan asked Magner, “And you have never sewed anything?”
“No, no. Can you see the trust that I had in myself?” She answered.
She also had a lot of trust in her community. “I had some of the strangest people who donated money and stuff,” said Magner. “Even my ex-husband gave me money for stuff! So everyone joins in.”
If you are familiar with defying an epidemic with a needle and thread, this should be the case. Do you remember the AIDS Memorial Quilt? It helped raise awareness and a lot of money – a few square feet at a time.
During World War II, Uncle Sam needed needles – mostly knitting needles. “Knit for Victory” campaigns were everywhere, and Eleanor Roosevelt helped to be the role model for this generation, and maybe even today.
William Hardy is with Carhartt, a company more than a century old that has helped train Red Cross workers to cut fabrics for garments and equipped our troops during both world wars.
Cowan asked Hardy, “Do you think it’s a responsibility?”
“Absolutely, I think it’s a responsibility,” he replied. “It is a responsibility and an honor.
“World War I, we made the pants for our soldiers. And we’re moving to World War II, most people don’t know that we made jungle suits for the Marines who fought in the Pacific Theater.”
Now Carhartt is back and makes around 50,000 dresses and 2.5 million masks, all for a new type of front fighter.
“It’s emotional for me,” said Hardy. “I just think it is our time. I am thinking of the sacrifice of these men and women that we lose every day and you know this is a way to save some of our people today and to make these people proud of it that we had the opportunity years ago. ”
For some fashion designers, however, this is a brand new area.
Christian Siriano, the one-time winner of the “Project Runway”, has now made it his new reality to make masks.
Since retail stores are closed almost indefinitely, famous brands like Ralph Lauren gallop to the rescue.
When asked how long they were going to make masks, David Lauren, son of Ralph Lauren (and the company’s chief branding and innovation officer) said, “Well, we’re not going to stop. There’s no way to stop. Nobody wants to.” So we keep going until the problem is fixed.
“It didn’t matter where you worked in our company and at what level. People came together with so much compassion and empathy. We have designers and people in our stores who literally started making masks themselves.”
The conversion of the factory halls only took a week.
“There is so much willpower and so much good in the world,” said Lauren. “Everyone wants to support this and want to do it quickly.”
Even if the outbreak peaks, officials warn that demand for protective equipment will continue. Some wonder if it will ever stop.
Eric Baldwin said, “It only seems very strange if things ever get back to normal. What will be the new normal?”
Hopefully one does not forget that the best of us come out in the worst of times.
Karen Haley said, “If we help someone in the community or make someone feel better, either by donating their time or simply feeling that they are doing something, we all feel better.”
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Story produced by Jon Carras and Mary Lou Teel, edited by Lauren Barnello.