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Face masks being donated to Hays schools

Linn Ann Huntington
Special to The Hays Daily News
Marlana Radke works on one of her child-size face masks at her home in Hays.

Calling all face mask makers!

The Presbytery of Northwest Kansas has issued a challenge to each of its churches to make and donate 100 face masks to their local public school districts.

First Presbyterian Church of Hays, 2900 Hall St., has accepted the challenge, said Becky Rogowski, the church’s Generations in Faith Together coordinator.

If members could make just five face masks each, the numbers would soon add up, Rogowski said in a recent email to church members.

Hays USD 489 begins in-school classes Wednesday, Aug. 26. State mandates require that all students, teachers and staff maintain social distancing and wear face masks.

Jessica Roe, lead nurse for the district, said, “That’s a great number of masks. I don’t even know how to put a number on it.”

Roe said if children show up for school without a face mask, “we will provide the child with a mask. We won’t send them home. If it happens several days in a row, we may call families and see how we can help them.”

While cloth face masks are preferred, one-time disposable masks are also acceptable, she said. School staff will also do temperature checks on every child each morning, she said.

The district is grateful for any and all donated masks, she added.

One of those making masks is Marlana Radke, of Hays, a one-time member of First Presbyterian, who heard about the church challenge.

Radke, who has been sewing since she was a child, said she first began making face masks in early April when a friend in Tampa, Fla., who is a yoga instructor, called her in tears. She needed face masks but was unable to find any locally. Stores were sold out.

Radke said she started sewing, sent her friend a dozen masks, and posted about it on Facebook. Within 24 hours, Radke had more than 100 orders.

Radke has been selling face masks ever since, but said that “for every batch I make, I sew some extra ones for my daughter’s school.”

Her daughter Elizabeth, 6, attends Wilson Elementary in Hays.

Although there are a lot of face mask patterns online, Radke said she created her own patterns for children and adults. Her cloth masks have a pocket where individuals can insert a filter, if they wish. She estimated she makes about 200 masks per week. In addition to the school district, Radke has also donated masks to First Call for Help of Ellis County.

Melanie Hancock, with the Stewardship and Mission Committee of the Presbytery office, said in an email that masks donated as part of the challenge should meet the following requirements:

• Fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face.

• Completely cover the nose and mouth.

• Be secured with ties or ear loops.

• Include multiple layers of fabric.

• Allow for breathing without restriction.

• Can be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape.

Hancock also provided a link to an online tutorial on how to make face masks in various sizes, to accommodate 3-year-olds to adults. That link is https://sewish.com/blogs/how-to-sew/how-to-sew-face-mask.

Those wishing to donate face masks directly to the school district may drop them off from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays at the board clerk’s office in the Rockwell Administrative Center, 323 W. 12th. District officials will then distribute the masks to various schools as the need arises, Roe said.

Those wishing to contribute to the Presbyterian Church’s challenge may contact Rogowski at 785-625-2847, and she will set up a time to meet them at the church. The church challenge ends on Labor Day, Sept. 7.

Elizabeth Radke, 6, models one of the face masks her mother, Marlana, has sewn. Marlana donates a percentage of the masks she makes to Wilson Elementary, the school Elizabeth attends.