Several residents are using their sewing skills and 3-D printers to make sure community members are safe.
While walking around Sarasota businesses, it’s not unusual to see socks that have been made into face masks and gardening gloves used to ward off shopping cart germs.
Although these solutions might be sufficient for the general public, they are no substitute for the real thing in a health care setting.
As the need for more protective equipment grows in Sarasota County, residents are taking their sewing scraps and creating masks for those on the front lines.
However, some Sarasota County residents have found another way to keep physicians and emergency responders safe: using their 3D printers to create plastic face shields.
One such resident is Warren Pollock, who first got into 3D printing to create video game controllers specifically for children.
Pollock 3D prints a portion of the shield that works as a headband or glasses and then uses a piece of overhead projection film to create the shield. Each mask costs $1.50 to make, and Pollock estimates he’s made 150 so far.
Pollock even got in touch with County Commissioner Christian Ziegler to see what else he could do. With Ziegler’s help, Pollock talked to officials at Suncoast Technical College, where volunteers will now begin the production of more face shields.
“We’re building a community industry to meet the community need,” Pollock said. “Everyone is working selflessly and in partnership with one another. We’re really trying to step in and help solve a need.”
Another organization making masks is Suncoast Science Center. Volunteers are sewing masks, and Science Center members are using the organization’s laser cutters and 3D printers to create face shields.
More than 150 volunteers have signed up to help the organization create the masks and shields for Sarasota Memorial Hospital and nonprimary health organizations, such as nursing homes.
“We’ve had so many amazing volunteers do such an incredible job,” Executive Director Ping Faulhaber said. “It’s a terrible thing we’re going through as a community, but just like everything else, bad things can make us stronger. As we pull together, we can accomplish something truly incredible.”
Faulhaber said the center hopes to produce around 500 shields and masks a week.
To achieve that goal, though, the organization needs donations of raw materials. People can donate 1/8-inch to 1/2-inch elastic, 100% cotton fabric and PET plastic that is 6-9 millimeters thick.
In addition to Suncoast Science Center, some Sarasota County Library employees have now transitioned from their typical library roles to the role of maskmaker.
They are creating 5,000 masks for Sarasota County government employees at the library system’s Creation Stations.
More than 30 staff members are using the equipment to create the masks. Staff members hope to create 1,500 masks a week, with the goal of giving each government employee two masks.
The library employees were not directed to make the masks; they just decided they wanted to do something to help.
Jamie Naylor, who is working at the Frances T. Borne Jacaranda Public Library said she’s happy to have something to work on while the libraries remain closed.
“In times when people feel helpless, our staff has appreciated having an opportunity to feel helpful contributing to a greater community cause, such as making masks in these times of need,” Naylor said.