Surgical material given out to volunteers making masks for hospital workers

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska. (KTVF) Community members are pulling together to help healthcare workers including the Community Emergency Response Team or CERT.

Lorna Illingworth with Fairbanks Citizen Corps gives out mask kits with surgical material for healthcare workers at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. (Sara Tewksbury/KTVF)

CERT is part of the Fairbanks Citizen Corps, a non-profit organization also known as Volunteers in Policing. Members of CERT are regular citizens who volunteer during emergencies.

On Wednesday night, Lorna Illingworth Executive Director of Fairbanks Citizen Corps gave out surgical material kits for volunteers to make masks for healthcare workers at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital. Illingworth says volunteers are important during emergencies like this novel coronavirus pandemic.

"Well, in any case of large-scale emergency, emergency services are overwhelmed with the things that they have to take care of. So, having certain members, volunteers of the community available to do tasks like this really helps support the community as a whole, and provides vital services that are needed during this time,” said Illingworth.

Amanda Mertes with International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1547 has been helping to coordinate the community effort of mask making with the hospital's surgical material. She says the FMH education department tested different fabrics and decided to provide material that is a surgical wrap, which is closer to the surgical mask material, which is normally used to put tools on during surgery.

Mertes has helped coordinate, and put kits together with patterns and instructions for the mask makers. She says on Wednesday they collected 488 masks that were made and distributed enough material to make 2,700 masks.

Mertes says the hospital is taking the masks and using them for non-clinical workers so they can save the factory made masks for doctors and nurses who are dealing directly with patients.

"We're just going to keep making masks until we run out of the material that the hospital has gotten specifically for this mask making project. But there will be some more potential projects coming up here, potentially sewing gowns or hoods depending on what the hospital is able to get factory-produced and what their need is,” said Mertes.

Mertes says anyone interested in being a part of this mask project can email her at

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