Community members have probably made thousands of fabric, reusable masks since the coronavirus hit the state, and now, they are being asked to make more.
Tahlequah Public Schools needs help collecting 3,600 fabric masks of all sizes for students and staff members.
“We’re not sure what’s going to happen by August. Masks are not, at this point, required,” said Tanya Jones, TPS director of federal programs and Indian education. “We wanted to have them in case we need to meet in small groups, and we wanted to make them available to the students. Handing out a new mask each day, or multiple ones a day, would be unaffordable.”
Jones sought the help of Nicki Barnes Scott, founder of My Friends & Me, as she knew her to be someone who could inspire and organize the community through social media.
Barnes Scott has set up a “Tiger Masks” Facebook group for volunteers.
“This group is in the beginning stages of an initiative to provide a reusable cloth mask to staff and students at Tahlequah Public Schools as a loving courtesy. Students and staff are not expected to be required to wear masks at this time, but thanks to your generosity, if the need arises, we will be prepared,” said Barnes Scott.
Mask patterns are shared there, as well as information about what is still needed.
“We have several volunteers eager to begin sewing, but we need donations and supplies. We have only had two donations so far,” Barnes Scott said Wednesday. “It may take some time to build momentum.”
Elastic is one item needed, but some sewists have used T-shirt material to make the mask straps. Jones has received monetary donations and has been able to purchase materials this week.
Fabric and thread can be donated, as well as finished masks. Some people said they would order them from Etsy or other online sites and have them delivered to the Board office.
“We don’t care what the pattern is or what the material is. People can use whatever they have lying around, and make the pattern they are most comfortable with,” said Jones. “We are at the mercy of people helping us.”
Around 30 masks with a clear plastic spot over the mouth are needed for speech pathology students and teachers. This enables the lips to be seen while words are being formed.
Jones said one option is to have all the masks remain at school, and they would be washed by the teachers or by using the schools’ laundry facilities. Bus riders may have to wear masks while being transported, so they would keep theirs in that situation.
“We want to have one available to all of our students, so we need 3,600 in various sizes from tiny baby to adult. We will divide them up between the sites so everyone has one at school,” said Jones. “There are so many uncertainties right now. We wanted to take one thing off other plates. We’re being proactive just in case.”
People can donate money to the Tigers Roar account at the school board or through a check mailed to P.O. Box 517, Tahlequah, OK 74465. Materials for masks or completed masks can be taken to the Board of Education building, 225 N. Water Ave. Items can be shipped to TPS Warehouse, Attn: Tiger Masks, 613 N. Jones Road, Tahlequah, OK 74464.
Donors may be provided with documentation on TPS letterhead for tax purposes upon request.