Blog of Bloodworks Northwest

Time, blood, and talent: Volunteers sew masks for Bloodworks staff

Blood donors often look forward to their post-donation conversation with a Bloodworks canteen volunteer as much as the juice and cookies.

Our volunteers come from a wide range of ages and backgrounds, from Gen Z to the Silent Generation, and assist Bloodworks with a variety of roles. However, retirees make up the backbone of our volunteer corp.

Given the demographics of our volunteer base and the data around those most impacted by COVID-19, Bloodworks leadership elected to suspend volunteer shifts starting in March.

However, our volunteers were not content to sit idle. They – you — asked for other ways to stay connected to Bloodworks’ lifesaving mission.

“The response did not surprise me, as they are some of our most dedicated community members,” said Naomi Howatt, Volunteer Services Program Manager. “They wanted to help! I was quickly inundated with requests by volunteers to help in some way from home.”

Changing times, changing guidelines

Bloodworks has been following local and national public health guidelines from the onset of this crisis. The CDC now recommends use of cloth masks where social distancing is difficult to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

We’ve mandated that Bloodworks staff wear a cloth mask, face shield, or both.

As you’ve read, commercially made surgical and N-95 masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) are desperately needed by high-risk heath care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic and have been in short supply.

It’s a tall order: we need over 1,000 masks for our blood collection staff to comply with CDC’s new guidelines to stop the spread of coronavirus.

This number allows for three masks per staff member to rotate each shift: one to wear, one in the wash, and one as a backup.

Sew it begins

Our volunteers went to work.

More than 80 volunteers from around the country, including several certified master quilters, have to date sewn 800 homemade masks for Bloodworks staff, representing 700 hours of volunteer work.

We provided instructions and a variety of mask patterns to choose from.

Our mask makers sourced tightly-woven cotton fabric scraps left over from their regular projects, when possible, which helped us keep costs low–and made for some very fun designs.

Trina Kiyasu has been a blood and platelet donor for over a year at the Lynnwood Donor Center. Her sister, Stacey, had just gone through Bloodworks’ volunteer orientation and told her about the opportunity to sew face coverings for phlebotomists.

“After hearing there was a need for non-hospital face masks, I wanted to be able to use my skills to provide what I could,” Trina told us.

Trina has completed 19 masks so far and is sewing another 40 cut out by a volunteer who doesn’t sew.

Charlotte Lin is a long-time blood donor who began volunteering with Bloodworks in 2010 correcting data entry errors on an analytics project. She switched to registration and donor monitoring at blood drives from Bothell to Snoqualmie, as long as they don’t start too early – she is “NOT a morning person, and needs to walk dog & spouse before leaving the house.”

Charlotte felt bad that her phlebotomist pals were working hard to maintain the blood supply “while I was sheltering safely at home,” so she signed up to help. Even though sewing is not her favorite activity, she made 24 masks!

Tracy Krauter runs Seattle textile company Splash Fabric. Sewing face masks was a natural pivot for the company, and donating a mask for every mask sold meshed well with the company’s community-driven mission.

Tracy recently dropped off 500 masks for Bloodworks staff, including an extra-special recipient: “My niece [long-time Bloodworks employee Kellie Opdyke] put me up to it!”

“I am honored and excited that our Mask Mission can help such important institutions as Bloodworks,” Tracy added.

More than 50 people volunteered to deliver masks to Bloodworks as well.

Our Donor Center, Volunteer Services, and Materials Management teams have been vital in coordinating these efforts and distributing masks around the organization.

Thank you, volunteers, for keeping our staff in compliance, our donors as safe as ever, and our hearts full of gratitude.

If you would like to volunteer to sew or donate masks, please contact [email protected]

April 24, 2020 1:25AM

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