Debra Poling is working to help local healthcare workers as best she can with strips of elastic and rectangles of cotton.

Those two materials are being used across the country by community members making homemade masks for a variety of organizations from hospitals to nursing homes to groups like the Evansville-based Chemo Buddies.

Poling, of Princeton, started making masks this week after a conversation with her daughter-in-law who works for Deaconess Health Systems in the Respiratory Department. She said after finding out what the need was, she was glad to have a way to help.

As COVID-19 impacts hospitals and cities, supplies like masks and gloves are in high demand.

Materials to make the masks are also in high demand. Poling is a quilter, so she had cotton material on hand to begin making masks, but the elastic was harder to come by.

She first looked online and said there was none available to order. She was able to get 30 yards from Let’s Sew, located in Evansville, and has ordered an additional 12 yards from the store online.

There have been patterns that show ribbon can be used in place of elastic, Poling said, but it’s harder to judge the sizing. For elastic, the patterns show 7 inches for each piece.

“If I have to go to that method I will,” she said. “But I’m hoping elastic will become a little more available.”

Poling has completed around 30 masks, and with the material she currently has, she expects to make between 75-80.

“I’ll keep sewing until I don’t have anything left to sew with,” she said.

The masks themselves are simple to make, with the prep work being what takes most of Poling’s time.

She said anyone with a sewing machine would be able to make them.

Poling has been sewing for about six years, ever since she retired from Toyota. She’s been quilting and said she is self-taught, joking that her mom sewed for years, but she never paid much attention to it.

As far as making masks, Poling said it’s a way to help out in the midst of such an awful situation.

“I think you feel like you’re helpless because you don’t know what you can do to help out because there’s limitations,”

she said.

Poling said as someone who is over 60, she does have concerns about getting out into the community, so this is something she can do to help.

“There are things (the community) could do,” she said. “It just makes you feel good.”

Local hospital donations

Gibson General has started accepting homemade mask donations. Masks can be dropped off in a box located in the hospital’s Main Entrance. Mask patterns can be found at

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