Parkview Health is partnering with businesses and volunteers to protect its supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) during the COVID-19 pandemic, stated Tami Brigle, public relations manager for Parkview Health, in response to a Plain Dealer request Monday.

“Though Parkview currently has an adequate supply of face masks, face shields and other PPE, innovative measures are being taken to ensure the international shortage doesn’t impact local patients or caregivers,” stated Brigle.

To create a stockpile of cloth masks, which can be used as a back-up to the main supply, Parkview is partnering with Hospital Laundry Service (HLS). HLS, along with a pre-selected group of volunteers, will be sewing clinical masks from a specific type of medical-grade material.

The clinical-grade masks will include nose pieces, fabricated and donated by Rea Magnet Wire and Schlemmer Brothers Metal Fabrication, which will help better protect front-line caregivers. These masks will only be used as a back-up option should Parkview Health exhaust its supply of preferred PPE.

“Additionally, community volunteers are invited to sew sheet masks, which could be used by patients, visitors or non-clinical co-workers. The basic style sheet mask can help contain the user’s germs and mitigate spread to others,” stated Brigle. “To ensure safety and quality, Parkview Health has assembled mask-making kits, which include fabric, instructions and materials to create 100 masks. Please note that the mask-making kits require volunteers to have basic sewing skills, your sewing machine and thread.”

Starting Wednesday, March 25, the mask-making kits can be picked up from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday at 3718 New Vision Drive, located on the Parkview Regional Medical Center campus in Fort Wayne. Volunteers should turn on to New Vision Drive from Diebold Road. Signs will be posted to indicate where you can drive up to easily receive the kits without leaving your vehicle.

“To manage the daily supply, mask-making kits are limited to one per person per day. At this time, the kits will be available for pick-up at the Fort Wayne location only. Kits will be available for pick-up at Parkview’s community hospital locations shortly,” stated Brigle.

All completed masks can be returned to the Fort Wayne location or to your local Parkview community hospital. All masks will be laundered by HLS before they are distributed.

Masks made with other fabrics will also be accepted, but volunteers are encouraged to use the kits provided by Parkview Health to ensure safety and uniformity. Email with any questions on the mask-making kits.

“Parkview Health has also been contacted by businesses offering to donate their supply of unused PPE, such as N-95 masks and gloves. These donations are appreciated, but must be dropped off at the Parkview Distribution Center, 1450 Production Road, Fort Wayne, to be vetted for safety before distribution,” stated Brigle.

On Friday, and again Monday, Grow Wabash County asked “any of our investors, businesses or individuals that have new, unused dust or N95 masks that they are willing to donate” to bring them to Parkview Wabash Hospital, 10 John Kissinger Drive. Take any unused masks to the Parkview Wabash Hospital ER and ask to speak with Marilyn in Administration.

Also on Friday, Mayor Scott Long approached Rick and Jennifer VanHoose-Simson, owners of Rick’s Auto, to see if they had any masks.

In response to a Plain Dealer request Saturday, Jennifer stated they didn’t have any dust masks on hand at the time. Later that same evening, Jennifer’s sister-in-law Shelly VanHoose, a nurse, sent a group text asking who could sew. Jennifer stated she thought was a much better idea.

From there, Jennifer co-founded the Facebook group, Wabash Strong, after a post about the need went viral. Word spread fast. In the first 12 hours, there were over 160 members. The group’s membership had sailed over the 700-member mark by Monday afternoon.

Jennifer stated they were not just making the masks for Parkview any more. Nursing homes, medical facilities and individual physicians are all in need.

Group co-administrator, Cindy Miller Solloway, stated they have a pattern from Deaconess Health System they can use for the long-term care facilities.

On Tuesday, Solloway stated the group donated 64 masks to Autumn Ridge Rehabilitation Centre.

Solloway stated completed masks should be dropped off to Rick’s Auto, 127 Manchester Ave., or Cannonball Lanes, 527 Cass St.

Rob Burgess, Wabash Plain Dealer editor, may be reached by email at rburgess@wabashplain