Area residents are helping COVID-19 response by making masks

    With an inability to get medical-grade masks and a directive from local, state, and federal governments that people wear masks in public to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, residents throughout the area are stepping up to make masks for first responders, medical workers, nursing homes, and the general public.


    “My mom is living with us now and wanted to do something to make her feel like she was helping,” said Becky Ness, of Cuba. “She had a tub full of quilting material, so we started making face masks for residents at Cuba Manor.
    Ness said she and her mother quickly ran out of elastic, but reached out to friends through Facebook and were able to acquire more, along with lots of ideas of things to use in its place.
    “Our masks were mailed to family in Arkansas, Florida, and Kansas City, many of whom are essential workers in the medical field and law enforcement,” said Ness. “Mom has failing vision and I am not a seamstress, but together we were able to figure it out and hope we made a difference.”
    Officials at Victorian Manor in Cuba said they have had a lot of different people donate masks to the facility. The director of nursing’s sister made a “good amount” of masks and another staff member’s mom made several and donated them to the nursing home.
    “We've had some residents’ families make some and even a resident is making them,” Victorian Manor said in a response to Three Rivers Publishing via social media. “The outpouring of support from everyone has truly been amazing. We have enough for our staff and were able to donate the rest to our sister communities to ensure everyone has what they need. We are still accepting donations of masks with the goal to help even more sister communities. Again, we appreciate all the love and support during this time. Hope you are all staying healthy and safe as well.”
    Ironton attorney Mike Randazzo, who is running for 42nd Judicial Circuit Court Judge, Division 2, recently partnered with Skaggs Services, of Bismarck, to deliver more than 300 handmade cloth masks to multiple jurisdictions in Crawford, Dent, Iron, Reynolds, and Wayne counties.
    Departments that received masks included the Cuba police, Crawford County CenCom (911 dispatch), Bourbon police, Viburnum police, Dent County Sheriff’s Office, Salem police, Iron County Ambulance District, Pilot Knob police, Reynolds  County Sheriff’s Office, Reynolds County 911, and the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office, along with Missouri Children’s Division workers in Crawford, Dent, and Iron counties.
    “I purchased all of the materials and paid for their production to provide our brave first responders with some much needed protection,” said Randazzo, who has served in various roles throughout this region, including municipal judge for Sullivan, Leadington, and Iron Mountain Lake, city prosecutor and city attorney for Arcadia, Leadwood, and Viburnum, as well as serving as a public defender.
    Paul and Lynda Rueff, of St. James, have provided masks to the St. James Ambulance District and made additional masks for police and residents who need them.
    “There is not a lot we’re able to do right now,” Lynda explained. “Paul had been working at the Rolla Police Department two days a week as a detective. When all this started, they sent him home.” While sitting around their home, they came up with the idea to make masks for themselves. “It made us wonder if the ambulance guys could use those,” she said.
    She contacted Ambulance Chief Bryan Lambeth and he said the district could use them. “It makes their N95 (masks) last longer. We started out and made 50 for the ambulance (district). Then we thought maybe some of the nursing homes could use some,” Rueff said.
    She and Paul contacted three small local nursing homes and asked them if they could use additional masks, which all of them could. “We made 100 total between the three homes,” she said.
    Lynda said Paul had 3D printed mask extenders for St. James Ambulance as well as the Rolla and St. James Police Departments to attach to the masks she created. The couple will continue to make masks for first responders, as well as community members who need them, for as long as they have materials or until they are no longer necessary. She thanked those who have supported them as they assist the community.