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Hope spreads throughout community during pandemic posted on 05/01/2020

In the past six weeks, Oregon residents and most of the nation have ceased many daily activities and sheltered in place in response to the spreading peril of the COVID-19 pandemic. During this time Mount Hood community members have found ways to offer support, from crafting protective gear to limit the spread of the virus to offering messages of hope to fellow community members suffering distress during these difficult times.

Kim Vasquez, a Zigzag resident, knew she was meant to help when the medical community began calling for support due to a dangerously low supply of personal protective equipment (PPE) in the state.

Vasquez began sewing at such a young age her grandmother would put books under the sewing machine pedals so her feet could reach them.

“I’m a sewer,” Vasquez said. “I by nature always have piles of fabric for future projects. Then one day it just happens to be for something that helps.”

After learning of the shortage of PPE in the state, Vasquez joined the “Crafters against COVID-19 *PDX*” Facebook group. The group was started on March 18 and currently has more than 8,000 members in the region producing non-medical grade PPE for use by patients in hospital settings to prevent the spread of the illness. The group coordinates pick-up of the PPE produced by Vasquez and other volunteers by the Multnomah County Health Department for distribution to hospitals.

As of April 17, more than 13,000 masks have been contributed by volunteers of the group to hospitals in need in the region.

“What I am doing is a very small drop in the bucket,” Vasquez said. “The people on the front lines are the ones making the big contribution.

“Making a small contribution to make their lives somewhat easier is but a benefit.”

Due to a shortage of elastic, Vasquez has switched to producing “ear savers,” hand-sewn straps that cushion medical grade PPE masks while wearing to prevent nurses from developing ulcers from the masks.

With the new national recommendations for individuals to wears masks in public to limit transmission of the virus, Vasquez intends to produce non-elastic masks for local use. She plans on reaching out to local businesses with staff that face greater exposure to the public and offering free supplies of masks.

“Even with the shortage (of elastic) I’ll keep going,” Vasquez said.

In efforts to support locals dealing with despair brought on by isolation and the current events, the bells of St. John of the Woods Catholic Church in Welches and neighboring churches in Sandy have begun to ring every evening at 6 p.m. Participating churches will continue to do so nightly for the remainder of the pandemic.

“The purpose for ringing the church bells is to bring comfort to those in distress, to bring hope to those who have lost all hope, and to restore faith to those who have lost their way during this pandemic,” said Ron Le Blanc, parishioner at St. John of the Woods, in a recent press release.

This nightly ringing of the bells is part of Le Blanc’s “Bells for Hope” campaign. Le Blanc encourages other churches regardless of denomination join in a “choir of church bells” to spread hope to community members feeling isolated.

During an April 16 Clackamas County “Coronavirus Town Hall” county commissioners praised community members for doing their part daily to combat the spread of COVID-19 by abiding by state and county social distancing guidelines.

“I want to say thank you to our constituents. Thanks for staying home. Thanks for physical distancing,” commissioner Martha Schrader said. “This is an unprecedented time in the history of Oregon and in the history of our county.”

By Ben Simpson/MT

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