In homes throughout the area, people who make and distribute face masks are providing protection against the spread of COVID-19 one mask at a time.

Melissa Vold is one of them. Originally from Park Rapids, she lives near Lake George and started with the goal of making 100 masks.

“The 100 became 200, and soon it was 500,” she said.

With her daughter’s help, she has now made over 900 masks and is planning to make more. Vold began her efforts in mid-March.

“My daughter, MacKenzie Pierce, is a paraprofessional in Bemidji and I sent material to her house to cut,” she said. “One of the things the school where she worked was allowing for their contracted hours was time spent working on face masks.”

Vold, who is part of numerous Facebook craft groups, has two sewing machines. “I usually work on masks in the evening,” she said. “There was a need, and I have the resources to help.”

Some supplies for the masks were purchased at local stores. “When things started shutting down, I purchased materials online, too,” she said.

All of the child-size masks have elastic, but due to elastic being hard to find now, ties are being used for adult masks.

Masks shared near and far

Masks have been distributed to CHI St. Joseph’s Health in Park Rapids, the Hubbard County Food Shelf, personal care attendants with Many Lakes Home Care in Park Rapids, the governor’s mask drive at the Lake George Fire Department, Lutheran Worldwide Services for people living in poverty overseas, the U.S. Navy hospital ship “Mercy” and the Grand Forks Air Force Base.

“When I learned from one of my craft groups that all military personnel had to wear a mask when working, and this Navy ship didn’t have them, I said I’d send some,” she said. “Those masks needed to be in camouflage colors – tan, white or olive green. I also sent some to the Air Force base because my brother, Chris Sells, was out there for years before he retired as a chief master sergeant.”

She said the first 100 masks she delivered to the Park Rapids hospital were an anonymous donation. “When I saw a picture of people with the masks I donated on Facebook I was surprised,” she said. “The food shelf director called to thank me, and I’ve gotten lots of thank-you notes from people too, but I didn’t do it for the recognition. I just did it because people needed them.”

Another batch of 200 masks were gifted to the hospital recently, including 100 child-sized masks.

Vold washes the material before she makes the masks, then irons them to smooth out wrinkles. “I also tell people to wash the masks again before they wear them,” she said.

She said the masks are washable and dryer safe. “The heat from the dryer kills any virus,” she said. “The heat of an iron will kill it, too.”

The mission continues

Vold said her husband, David, is a postal worker in Bemidji and is required to wear a mask for some deliveries. She believes wearing masks can help prevent the spread of the virus.

“Some places people are still in the minority if they are wearing a mask,” she said. “Other places, you see quite a few wearing masks. I think people feel secure because we’re in a small area that hasn’t had many cases, but you might not have any symptoms and still spread the virus to others. That’s why I choose to wear a mask.”

She said making masks is rewarding work. “I’ve got a big donation I’m going to bring in to the food shelf for their clients,” she said. “You can order masks online, but if you are getting your food at the food shelf, obviously you can’t afford $12 plus shipping, especially if you have a big family. Donating masks helps with accessibility.”

Vold has donated the time and materials to make these masks. “I wanted to help people,” she said. “If it helps one person, then it was worth it.”

Anyone who wants to help Vold in her efforts can send elastic, fabric or money to purchase supplies to Melissa Vold, 37509 US 71, Lake George, MN, 56458.