CALLAHAN–As the critical shortage of medical masks surfaced during the COVID pandemic, a group of 16 women from First Baptist Church in Callahan answered the call, sewing more than 7,000 masks for their community and medical facilities in nearby Jacksonville.
The original group of five women began their sewing marathon in March when UF Health in Jacksonville asked them to stitch masks for the hospital, using material provided by medical facility. Making their initial base of operation at the church, they relocated to a home after the request to stay-in-place was issued.
When a UF Health employee came to pick up the several hundred masks they had completed, the employee dropped off additional materials to sew more masks.
Word quickly spread about the sewing ministry, and soon local community organizations and businesses were asking for masks. The church assisted by purchasing a special fabric from a medical supply company to fulfill these requests.
New volunteer seamstresses were added to the group, bringing the number of workers to 16.
Nassau County School Board requested masks for workers who were distributing food to school children at home. The Mayo Clinic Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurses sent a plea for as many masks as they could provide; and the Nassau County Sheriff’s Department made a request, as well as a local nursing home and women’s center.
Masks were also stitched for workers in the Callahan church’s food pantry ministry. Pastor Lynn Hyatt delivered hand-made masks for employees at local hardware stores, restaurants, Walgreens and the local Winn Dixie grocery store.
Volunteer seamstress Imogene Mitchell said the group has claimed Psalm 90:17 as their theme verse: “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us – yes, establish the work of our hands.” This committed group saw God establish their ministry.
Some of the women worked while babysitting children and grandchildren. One volunteer sewed with a broken finger. Another enjoyed the memories of her mother teaching her how to sew as a child as she completed masks on her mother’s 1957 Singer sewing machine.
Soon, the men did not want to be left behind. They knotted rubber bands together, clipped and cut fabric and threads, and made pickups and deliveries.
“The work is ongoing, a privilege and labor of love and gratitude,” said Mitchell as they serve on the front lines of the pandemic.
“We have truly been blessed to be the hands and feet of Jesus.”