face mask sewing

Bridget Ahmed of Savage sews cotton face masks as part of a volunteer effort around the state and country to provide health care workers with masks.

Three members of a Savage family are each helping respond to the coronavirus pandemic and its effects in different ways and looking for others to join them.

“You have a lot of people sitting at home feeling helpless,” said Sameena Ahmed-Buehler, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Minnesota who’s working to recruit other students to help with babysitting and other household needs for doctors, hospital workers and other providers.

“This is our way of helping the people that are taking care of us.”

Ahmed-Buehler’s mother, Bridget Ahmed, has meanwhile been sewing cotton face masks for health care providers in recent days, with about two dozen finished or in progress this week.

And Sheriff Ahmed, Bridget’s husband, has been working to spread the word and rally people to help even in small ways around Savage, such as with groceries or personal emergencies.

He immigrated from Bangladesh in the 1970s and said a lot of people helped him then.

“If all of us help each other, I think we are strong,” he said. “It’s so easy to get demoralized and scared, but there’s so much we can do.”

The medical students’ effort is called MN COVIDsitters and started up after schools closed and students found themselves with a week without classes, Ahmed-Buehler said.

Around 100 families have signed up for help since, she added, and the student helpers are still studying full time. She’s been working mostly on recruitment, reaching out to other schools and departments.

“We still are in need of more volunteers,” Ahmed-Buehler said; contact information and more is online at mncovidsitters.org. “We all came into the field of medicine to help people.”

Bridget Ahmed, meanwhile, is one of countless volunteers around the country who have begun piecing together face masks, according to The New York Times and other news outlets.

Cotton masks aren’t as effective or elaborate as professional surgical masks, but they can be used as a last resort or in combination with other equipment to stretch out a thin mask supply, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said.

“Hand sewn masks will allow us to meet on-going health care needs and preserve critical personal protective equipment for the caregivers on the front lines of the coronavirus response,” Helen Strike, COVID-19 system incident commander for Allina Health, said in a news release from Blue Cross Blue Shield Minnesota, which has joined the calls for volunteers.

Instructions and designs for the masks are at the website of Sew Good Goods, a local nonprofit: sewgoodgoods.org. They can be dropped off at St. Francis Regional Medical Center in Shakopee and other hospitals, where they’ll be cleaned and sanitized, according to Blue Cross Blue Shield.

“I’m not very good, but I can make a rectangle,” Bridget Ahmed said, though her husband and daughter chimed in to dispute the self-deprecation — Ahmed sewed all of the Halloween costumes growing up, her daughter said.

“We’ll work on them as long as I have supplies,” Bridget Ahmed said. “Hopefully it’ll be helpful someplace.”

We want to hear about your experiences in the time of COVID-19, too. You can reach out at editor@plamerican.com or 952-345-6376.

Community editor

Dan Holtmeyer is the community editor for the Prior Lake and Savage papers. He grew up in Nebraska and worked as a journalist in Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas before coming to Minnesota in 2018.

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