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Helping out ‘one seam at a time’

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A shortage of protective face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic has mobilized members of the community to take matters into their own hands and needles.

The Arc of Madison Cortland is working with Oswego Industries on producing medical face masks for health care providers, government agencies, and businesses in need.

Officials from both agencies began discussions weeks ago on how they could help meet the increasingly growing demand for masks.

They’re producing them within their Integrated Businesses and Alternative Industries model, which employs people with and without disabilities who work together in a supportive and collaborative environment.

Currently, the two groups are filling about 3,000 orders with the anticipated volume of 50,000 over the next 1-2 months.

“We are so grateful to have Oswego Industries providing us additional work to support our business as well as the employees of The Arc Madison Cortland, some of whom are on the front lines in healthcare,” said Darin Pearo, Director of Facilities and Business Operations at The Arc Madison Cortland. “It is the epitome of a true team effort to support the community at large.”


(Photo: The Arc of Madison Cortland)


Other members of the community are also hard at work making and distributing face masks to essential staff.

Officials at Cortland Enlarged City School District yesterday thanked former treasurer Laura Simon for her work, who retired five years ago after 28 years and has already sewn around 200 masks by herself.

Simon said she’s sewed her whole life and was able to learn how to make the masks on YouTube, which takes her about 15 minutes per mask.

“I have sewn my whole life and had lots of material on hand for the masks,” said Simon. “Usually when you quilt, you buy more than enough fabric so I was able to use the leftover fabric to make the masks. In addition to the school district, I was also able to distribute the masks to local restaurants and other businesses that needed them.”

Since her retirement, Simon has also continued to help the district with special projects and training new business office employees.

District officials thanked her for stepping up during this particular time of need in the community:

“When COVID-19 forced us to shift to distance learning, Laura saw another opportunity to help,” stated an official release from the district commemorating Simon’s efforts. “She observed that there were essential workers who still came to work assisting with food distribution, including food service employees, bus drivers, and some teacher aides. Laura realized that she could use her sewing and quilting skills to make masks for the remaining employees that were essential and could not stay home. We are grateful for her assistance in the making of the masks and wish to show our appreciation!”


(Photo: Cortland ECSD)


Masks are also being sewn through local Joann Fabric stores, as well as a special initiative being run by Cayuga Health on the campus of Cornell University.

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