As students and teachers in St. Lucie County begin a new school year, a team of women on the Treasure Coast are rolling out an extra layer of support.
St. Lucie County schools and many voluntary pre-kindergarten programs in the area will begin Monday, August 24.
However, since school closed in March, the Ocean Village Sewing Circle in Fort Pierce has been hard at work stitching handmade face masks for the community.
So far, the group has made more than 9,300 masks for their neighbors, nonprofit organizations, and teachers throughout the region.
Their latest bulk of donations are designated for teachers to ensure they have a fresh supply of masks as they begin the new year amidst the pandemic.
“They have a very, very difficult task to carry forward,” said Susan Scarola, a seamstress with the Ocean Village Sewing Circle. “They’re putting aside their own well-being and making sure that they can further the education of our youngest, youngest citizens.”
A recent delivery of 250 face masks were distributed to preschools across St. Lucie County.
“We have adorable prints, the kids just love it,” said Carol Hilson, Director of the Community United Methodist Preschool in Fort Pierce.
Hilson appreciated the overwhelming show of support for teachers.
She also said the vibrant prints and patterns prompt her students to be inquisitive.
A mask with colorful patterns can be a creative tool to incorporate into her lesson plans.
“If you can find a theme, you can expand that theme and then we build on that,” said Hilson. “Sometimes it can even become a science lesson.”
The Ocean Village Sewing Circle initially began sewing masks for their neighbors in Fort Pierce, but the demand grew exponentially, so they continued to their effort to ensure essential workers were protected.
“Ocean Village Sewing Circle donated masks to Suncoast Mental Health Center to help keep our working staff safe and healthy as we remain open during this crisis,” reads a statement from Suncoast Mental Health Center. “We greatly appreciate the kindness and generosity!”
Communities Connected for Kids in Fort Pierce also said the organization received hundreds of cloth masks from the group.
“Communities Connected for Kids would like to thank the Ocean Village Sewing Circle for its very generous donation of hand-crafted cloth masks,” reads a statement from Christina Kaiser, director of Communities Connected for Kids in Fort Pierce.
Kaiser also said the cloth masks are particularly helpful as a supplement to the one-use-only disposable masks needed by front-line workers.
“Social workers and other child-welfare professionals have been deemed essential workers,” added Kaiser. “Despite most work being adapted to video conferencing, many of them - especially case managers - must sometimes interact in person with the families and children on their caseloads.”
Members of the Ocean Village Sewing Circle are grateful for the sewing materials they have received to keep their operation going strong.
“We’ve made 9,300 masks,” said Scarola. “We’ve actually created our own assembly line. We have certain women who cut the fabric, pin it, sew it, and iron it. We needed thread and elastic and fabric and it came pouring in from the back of closets.”
Scarola is still amazed by the community response to pitch in and said items have been shipped in from across the eastern seaboard to meet the need.
“This elastic came from a nephew of mine who lives in North Carolina,” said Scarola. “I would open up my front door in the morning and there would be a bolt of fabric. I’d pull down my mailbox and there would be a spool of thread.”
The Ocean Village Sewing Circle will start making child-sized masks for the Early Learning Coalition of St. Lucie County.
The masks will go to families during an outreach event the coalition is hosting in September.
To find out more about the Ocean Village Sewing Circle or to donate supplies, contact the Early Learning Coalition of St. Lucie County.