Group puts stitching skills to good use

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Women from Chatfield Farms in Beacon Falls, who refer to themselves as the Mask Stitchers at Chatfield, are sewing homemade masks to give to people and medical facilities in the area. -CONTRIBUTED

BEACON FALLS — A group of women from Chatfield Farms is using their extra time and skills to make cloth masks with filters to give out during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Marilyn Lombardo organized the group of about two dozen neighbors in the 55-and-older-active community on March 21. Lombardo, a retired nurse, said she felt the need to help when she learned her daughter and niece, who work in health care, had to use scarves because there wasn’t personal protective equipment available.

“When I was seeing on TV about them (health care workers) not having the PPEs, it hit home because I went through the AIDS epidemic working,” said Lombardo, who lives with her husband, Chuck. “The thought of having to try to take the care that you wanted to care for people and not be able to protect yourself and your family was heartbreaking.”

The women collectively call themselves the Mask Stitchers at Chatfield and have made and given out over 1,900. The group includes Patricia DiBuduo, Liz Keppler, Mary Kuhnen, Nancy Carroll, Renita Covino, Betsy Kimmel, Jill Witt, Karen Grimm, Cindy Biondi, Rochelle Kanell, Marianne Ebling, Barbara Kelly, Betsy Sheehy, Kim Lerman, Anna Buther, Debbie Goyette, Susan Knox, Mary Tornatore, Denise McGrath, Linda Aldo, Marie Wright, Lynn Zatlin and Riva Sparks.

Covino said it’s uplifting to be a part of the group.

“It feels good to help in whatever way we can,” Covino said. “I’m proud of these women.”

The group has given masks to more than 250 residents of Chatfield Farms, 100 to Beacon Hose Co. No. 1 to distribute, as well as to area medical facilities and nursing homes.

Lombardo said her goal for the group is simple.

“Protect as many people as we can,” she said. “By protecting others, we’re protecting ourselves.”

Marilyn Lombardo is pictured at her home in Chatfield Farms in Beacon Falls with masks and materials to make mask laid out on the table April 28. Lombardo organized a group of women from Chatfield Farms to make masks. –ANDREAS YILMA

The group is accepting donations to buy fabric through a GoFundMe page, “Mask Stitchers of Chatfield.”

Lombardo said it typically takes her about 10 to 15 minutes to sew a mask through her sewing machine. The nine group members who have sewing machines usually make 10 to 20 masks a day. The remaining members who don’t sew cut fabric or make ear savers — two buttons on a piece of cotton for elastic to wrap around and keep the masks on.

Lombardo said the women communicate daily through the GroupMe app.

The women aren’t the only ones volunteering. Some of their husbands handle deliveries and cut elastics for the group.

“I think it’s amazing what any individual can accomplish when you have a purpose and there’s a need,” Lombardo said.

“This is a great community; it’s just a great group of people. You tell them you need something and suddenly five of them are at your door with it,” she added. “It’s just unbelievable people who have worked really hard their whole lives and want to share it with each other.”