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Minot woman coordinates Facebook sewing brigade

Submitted Photo Darcy Bjertness wears a sewn mask like the ones being made and donated to North Dakota hospitals.

Hundreds of North Dakotans are fighting COVID-19 with a sewing machine, and more warriors are needed on the front lines.

Darcy Bjertness of Minot has been helping coordinate the troops through a Facebook group, ND Face Mask Warriors.

She became involved after noticing on Facebook that a Michigan resident had started individual groups for all 50 states for Face Mask Warriors. There were few in the North Dakota group at the time so Bjertness took the lead.

The group has administrators for each of the state’s major cities. They contacted the hospitals in those cities to determine the face mask pattern their health-care staff prefer.

“We first started a couple of weeks ago,” Bjertness said. “I would say we’ve probably made a couple thousand masks so far across the state for our hospitals.”

Submitted Photo Some of the masks going to Trinity Health are shown.

Face Mask Warriors focuses on masks for medical facilities rather than for the general public. Bjertness said the cotton coverings don’t replace the higher-grade masks worn by medical professionals but they sometimes are worn over the N95 masks to extend the lives of those masks.

“It’s very overwhelming. There are masks needed everywhere,” Bjertness said. “I do see a lot of people that are wanting to help out in the community in this way, which is awesome because there’s so much need.”

Each hospital has listed its own pattern requirements, and those patterns are provided on the Facebook site.

Bjertness said she’s made 40 masks for Trinity Health, but many who have signed onto the project have individually made many more.

“It’s really difficult to gauge how much is getting done because people are just sewing like crazy and just dropping them off,” she said. She said a person skilled in sewing could make a mask in as little as 15 to 20 minutes.

Submitted Photo Betty Leith supplied a photo of these sewn masks headed to Mountrail County Medical Center.

Face Mask Warriors is part of an even larger effort in the state to sew masks for local hospitals.

“The contribution of homemade masks has been amazing,” Randy Schwan, a Trinity vice president, said in a prepared statement. “We have received just over 700, which is a significant step toward our goal of 2,000 masks. Nearly all the masks have been deployed across our system. Since the sewn masks are laundered daily and reused, this has helped us preserve the medically approved masks for the most critical areas within the hospital. We are grateful for any masks received and continue to receive.”

As of this week, the ND Face Mask Warriors group had grown to 300 members. Anyone who sews and would like to make masks can join ND Face Mask Warriors on Facebook for details.

The link is: facebook.com/groups/2962510793799289/?ref=br–rs.

For those who don’t sew but want to help, they can donate to assist those sewing to purchase supplies. Donations are being accepted at http://paypal.me/pools/c/8nTYZkPAP4.

Bjertness sends a huge thank you to people who have donated so far and said the project welcomes more support of any dollar amount.

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