Safety superheroes

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Safety superheroes

Categories: Blog, Get Involved, Give, News, Shelter Services, Team YWCA

Referencing the CDC’s most recent recommendation to use face coverings in the fight against coronavirus, Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton recently said, “I need your help, Ohio. I need you to wear both a cape and a mask now.”

On any given day, upwards of 100 women and children are cared for through YWCA’s domestic violence shelters, rape crisis services, crisis hotline, and supportive housing programs, all of which remain open and available 24/7/365, even during a pandemic. These services are essential – but also communal, and many of the families in YW’s care are at higher risk for severe illness. Nearly half of YW residents are over the age of 55, and 70 percent live with a chronic illness or disability. Adding cloth face masks to existing health precautions became a critical, immediate need.

Wanda Byrne of Eaton, Ohio, was first to answer the call to transform Team YWCA into safety superheroes. Not only has she been a seamstress for 75 years (or more – she stopped counting); she is also the grandmother of YW’s director of rural strategy, Courtney Griffith.

“Why did I want to help YWCA in this way? Because she asked me, that’s the main reason: I love her,” Byrne said.

Griffith notes, “The sewing machine she uses is one my late grandfather bought her years ago. I have always taken my clothes to her to fix and alter, and she has made gifts for my friends throughout the years, like baby blankets and sorority pillows.”

Now, Griffith can add cloth face masks for her work friends to the list.

“I had prayed about what I could do to help in this situation; I have a good machine, elastic, and material, so this was something I could do,” Byrne said. “I had everything I needed without going out and buying it, and I believe God provided that. I’ve probably had the material for 20 years – I bought it to make curtains, and never used it.”

In total, Byrne crafted 12 masks for Preble County Public Health and 12 for YWCA Dayton. All donated masks are cleaned and packaged with safe handling instructions before being distributed to staff, clients, and residents.

“It took me almost an hour to make the first one. After about six of them, I caught on, and it only took about 25 minutes for each,” Byrne said. “I was glad I could do it.”

Byrne’s was the first of about five dozen masks that have since been donated to YWCA Dayton, but more are still needed to ensure all staff, clients, and residents are covered and to account for future clients and residents. To schedule a donation delivery time, call 937-461-5550 x108 or email