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Gretchen Applegate made 40 cotton face masks, including the ones seen here, as of Monday. Her goal was to tally 100 by the end of the week. 

WENATCHEE — Gretchen Applegate can make a cotton face mask in around 20 minutes. She started Saturday and had 15 ready to go by the end of the day.

“It was nonstop, believe me, I didn’t even have a cup of coffee,” she said in an interview Monday. “I just wanted to make them so badly.”

Applegate, a Wenatchee resident who’s been sewing since she was 3 years old, is one several community members who’ve begun to craft homemade personal protective equipment for local healthcare providers.

The global COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on medical supplies for many providers across the country. Local health organizations are stocking up to be better prepared for treating cases in North Central Washington.

The Confluence Health Foundation and the Chelan-Douglas Health District have set up donation drop-off sites in the two counties.

Wenatchee Valley residents can contact the Confluence Health Foundation at (509) 436-6275 to donate unopened medical supplies and homemade protective equipment that meets Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

Its list of needed supplies includes:

  • Latex-free gloves
  • Procedural masks
  • Surgical masks
  • N95 respirators and N95 filters
  • Other respirators P100, PAPR and PAPR supplies / parts
  • Face shields
  • Splash shields
  • Gowns
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Disinfecting wipes

“If you have the skills and ability, Confluence Health would also gratefully receive handmade PPE (especially masks) that will directly support the long-term care facilities in our communities,” the organization said in a Monday press release. “We anticipate increasing numbers of community members infected with COVID-19, who will require care.”

The foundation will distribute supplies to its facilities as well as other healthcare and assisted-living organizations in the area, Confluence Health Chief Operating Officer Vikki Noyes said in an interview Monday.

Donations will be screened to make sure they meet health and material-quality guidelines, Noyes said.

The health district on Monday put out recommendations for people who’d like to craft and donate homemade masks:

  • If possible, please wear a mask and gloves when making or handling masks. We recommend you wear the first mask you make.
  • If possible, please wear a mask and gloves when handling donated masks
  • Minimize exposure whenever possible by observing the 6-foot social distancing rule when coordinating drop-offs and donations

In the past couple weeks the Confluence Health Foundation received an abundance of inquiries from community members who’d like to contribute supplies, Noyes said.

“The amount of energy and enthusiasm in the community over the last week has just been heartwarming,” she said. “There are so many people wanting to make a difference wherever they can and I think we’re just so fortunate to have this caliber of residents living with us. It is just wonderful.”

Several companies have also announced they’ll make donations. Harbor Freight founder Eric Schmidt said on Twitter Sunday the company will be supplying masks, face shields and gloves to hospitals in their stores’ communities.

Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts on Monday began supplying free mask-making kits that contain materials and instructions. Jan Brown, manager of the East Wenatchee store, said the 55 kits they had in stock Monday were going quick.

The company also launched a website with instructional videos and fabric suggestions. That’s available at wwrld.us/masks.

By Monday Applegate had made 40 masks — her goal is to tally 100 by the end of the week. The choice to contribute to the cause was an easy one, she said.

“I think any time the public can step up and help, it’s a must,” she said.

See more information on making masks and how to donate at confluencehealth.org/covid19-donations.