Ann Arbor couple help ‘sewing’ the needs of the community in this time of crisis

By Donna Iadipaolo / WLD

Andy and Steve Schiff are an adorable retired couple who have lived in Ann Arbor for 35 years and have recently become heroic figures of a sort. They are driven — hearing the call — to sew needed cloth masks for medical professionals who are on the frontlines of the coronavirus crisis.

The couple construct the masks in their home and drop them off to the Ann Arbor Sewing Center, which many others are doing as well. Thus far, the couple have made 300 masks.

Many people in the community are working to get Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) made for the frontline health-care professionals. Andy and Steve are one example of a couple working together to sew the needed masks.

“I do the cutting, my wife does the sewing,” says Steve Schiff.

Andy, with her blue-turtled glasses, toils away on her white sewing machine upon a wooden table while listening to her headphones. Andy and Steve are allowed to make fun-colored masks as long as the masks follow the rest of the guidelines.

Regarding cloth masks, Steve added that he knows that they are not as good as the higher grade masks, but every little bit still helps.

“We know they are nowhere near as effective as the N-95 (masks), but since folks are still accepting the cloth masks I guess they are of some use,” says Steve.

He added that they are gathering support on NextDoor, a social media site which allows neighbors to communicate to enlist help from others.

“Folks have generously donated fabric and we hand off cut pieces of material for others to sew into masks. A handful so far have either donated fabric or taken fabric pieces to sew,” he said.

Schiff, who says that he and his wife have hundreds of pre-cut  6 x 9 fabric pieces ready to sew into face masks, added that it only requires 5-10 minutes for an experienced sewer to put together a mask. He also said that Joann Fabric is graciously donating remnants and hopes others in the community can step up to do their part in some way as well.

“I hope that folks who are privileged not to be financially effected by the crisis will ‘pay it forward’ and donate movement stimulus checks to local charities that desperately need the money,” said Schiff.

In terms of the national context, it has been widely reported in the mainstream media that health professionals still need PPE to protect them in the hospitals and other facilities when working with patients.

Furthermore, Dr. Anthony Fauci, NIAID Director, has recently reported that as soon as the medical professionals get enough masks, Fauci may recommend that the general public wear masks as well to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. But the priority remains that the medical professionals working with the patients be equipped with PPE first.

General Motors recently announced that they will be manufacturing masks to meet the demand as well. The automotive giant is reporting that they will deliver 50,000 masks by April 5 and increase to making 50,000 a day. Other companies are also stepping up in production of PPE.

 “Please help make masks!”

The Ann Arbor Sewing Center (5235 Jackson Road) has the following plea on their website: “Please help make masks! St. Joseph Hospital is still in desperate need for masks!”

They give the following conditions:

1. Only use the pattern attached on the Ann Arbor Sewing Center website

Link to pattern

2. Modify the pattern to use fabric ties—two 18’’ on each corner.

3. Use 100 percent quilting to make the masks, no flannel or knits.

4. Do not bring masks to the hospital. They don’t want people dropping off masks. Please put them in the drop off bin at Ann Arbor Sewing Center. They are sorting for appropriate masks to take to the hospital. (Masks made with wire, coffee filters etc. are not being accepted at the hospital. They are being sent to other facilities that will take them, though.)

5. Please put masks in a clean, plastic ziplock bag.

6.  Do NOT bring homemade masks to University of Michigan Hospital. They are not accepting them.

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