BALDWIN — In response to the shortage of personal protective equipment, volunteers from Lake and Newaygo counties are coming together to sew non-surgical protective face masks to donate to individuals with health concerns, first responders, health care workers, hospitals and medical clinics.

What began as a small operation about a week ago with a few volunteers has now grown into a small army of home-sewing mask-markers within days.

The Sewing Brigade, as they call themselves, started sewing masks using fabric donated by JoAnn Fabrics, but when the fabric ran out, they turned to their own fabric stash and have been sewing ever since. Using various patterns, masks are sewn using elastic, ties or a combination of both to secure it to the face providing limited personal protection.

The masks are not designed to protect the wearer from airborne bacteria or virus particles and are less effective than N95 or FFP masks, which provide better protection due to their material, shape, and tight seal.

More than 250 masks have been sewn and distributed throughout Lake, Newaygo, Muskegon, Mason, and Osceola counties, but they are not done yet. If you are in need of a mask or would like to donate to the purchase of fabric or elastic, email Michigan State University Extension 4-H program coordinator Laurie Platte Breza at platteb1@msu.edu.