Cherokee Nation citizens help with mask shortage

BY LINDSEY BARK
Reporter
03/26/2020 08:30 AM
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen Debbie Wilson, of Rocky Ford, sews face masks on March 24 at her home. She donates them to local fire departments and health care providers in light of the shortage of surgical masks to protect workers as they help with the COVID-19 pandemic. COURTESY
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Shown are two face masks made by Cherokee Nation citizen Debbie Wilson. COURTESY
Main Cherokee Phoenix
Cherokee Nation citizen Verna Bates’ daughter-in-law Michelle Williams models a mask Bates made for her due to shortage of personal protective equipment in her job at the Oklahoma Heart Institute in Tulsa. COURTESY
ROCKY FORD – To help emergency and medical personnel with dwindling protective equipment in their work to combat COVID-19, community members in the Cherokee Nation are doing their part by making face masks.

CN citizen Debbie Wilson, of Rocky Ford, started making masks on March 19 after realizing the shortage of masks was becoming evident in her community.

“I didn’t realize the need until I talked to my brother and sister-in-law. He’s an EMT and chief at the Oaks Fire Department and she’s a nurse. I found out how much our locals needed help, and I can sew,” Wilson said.

After gathering supplies, Wilson made approximately 40 masks in her first batch. She has since made more than 100 masks as the need arises.

“I am making surgical masks that will fit over their disposable one so it can last longer since they can’t get more and the outer fabric one can be washed and used again,” Wilson said. “I use cotton or cotton/poly because it is so durable.”

She even posted a link on her Facebook page on how they can be made and encourages others to do so. She said she knows women in Owasso who are making masks.

“These are so simple to make. If you have a sewing machine and some fabric please help your local fire departments and health care providers,” she said. “They can’t get the masks they need to keep them safe. They volunteer their time to help us, it’s time for us to help them.”

Wilson, a retired poker dealer, said with the time she has she is willing to help.

“I would just like to ask more people to help their communities any way they can to get past this virus. As a member of the CN, we’re not helpless. We just do what we need to,” she said.

CN citizen and Cherokee artist Verna Bates, of Locust Grove, is also helping by sewing and donating masks as requests come to her. She started after her daughter-in-law, Michelle Williams, told her about a mask shortage in the cardiovascular catheter lab at the Oklahoma Heart Institute in Tulsa. Williams works at the institute.

“She asked if I could make a fabric mask for her to wear in addition to her hospital-issued mask,” Bates said. “The handmade fabric mask would help give her extra protection and more mileage from her hospital mask. I looked online at various mask patterns and then made adjustments to the construction to better suit me.”

Bates said she had also seen calls on Facebook for seamstresses to make masks.

“I decided that since my style mask worked so easy for me that I would share step-by-step photos with instructions for making a mask,” she said. “I felt pictures would clarify the construction best. I posted the pictures, along with a pic of Michelle modeling her new mask on Facebook. Within minutes, I received messages from two more folks working in the medical field requesting a mask, also.”

Bates said she is vulnerable to the virus due to her age and health but would continue to help as long as her supplies lasted.

“I’ve felt helpless not knowing how best to protect ourselves and others,” she said. “The medical folks are on the front lines. Their priority is our well-being. I don’t have much fabric on hand and don’t want to go shopping for it due to the crowds so, I will sew masks and donate them to those medical professionals who ask for one until my supply has been depleted.”

For information, contact Wilson on Facebook or call Bates at 918-694-5274.
About the Author
Lindsey Bark grew up and resides in the Tagg Flats community in Delaware County. She graduated magna cum laude from Northeastern State University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication, emphasizing ...
lindsey-bark@cherokee.org • 918-772-4223
Lindsey Bark grew up and resides in the Tagg Flats community in Delaware County. She graduated magna cum laude from Northeastern State University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in mass communication, emphasizing ...

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