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Jennifer Tyree created the Facebook group to make a million masks for healthcare workers across the country.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Jennifer Tyree shows some of the masks she makes for health care workers.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues, people are finding new ways to help hospital workers on the front lines, such as giving out free food or cards of encouragement.

Gaston resident Jennifer Tyree wanted to not only help local healthcare workers, but also those across the country. In late March, she created the Facebook group "Million Mask Challenge – Creating Masks for Healthcare Workers & Caregivers."

The group now has about 6,000 members from multiple states.

"I'm in awe every single day," said Tyree, who works as a nurse. "We believe in the power of one and that each person can make a huge difference when we unite together. We're trying to fill a need that none of us really believed we'd be having to fill."

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - A plastic bag of masks sits ready to be delivered to health care workers.

With experience in public health and infection control, Tyree said she knew the importance of personal protective equipment, or PPE, for healthcare workers early on. That's why she decided for the group to partner with GetPPE.org.

On the website, hospitals can put out a request for several masks built with key details to cover their needs.

Tyree said it's important to pay attention to the order, because every state, hospital and infection control policy has different expectations for cloth masks.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Jennifer Tyree applies a one of the masks on her face that she makes for health care workers.

"It has two different colors of fabric," Tyree said, explaining one of the masks she makes for hospitals. "There's one on the front and one on the back. … The reason it needs to be two colors is for infection control, so they can tell which part of the mask was towards the patient and which part of the mask was towards them."

Other masks can include a pocket for a filter or a nose piece. The nose piece is helpful so workers can adjust the mask to their face shape and size.

So far, with the help of other groups across the country, Tyree's group has made more than 275,000 masks for hospitals in multiple states.

When asked about how much that number means to her group, Tyree said, "I don't know how to handle that number. I know that that's just a fraction of what has been done across the United States. … It's very important that it's not just one group. No one is lesser, no one is greater. We're all making an impact."

Tyree hopes the group can be also be helpful for those looking to make a difference in a time of uncertainty.

"The big thing that we all believe in strongly in our group is that every mask matters," she said. "Each person counts. Somebody doesn't just monopolize this. This is a beautiful group with a grassroots effort."

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Jennifer Tyree works on one the masks she makes for health care workers.

But Tyree also understands if others want to work independently to fill the need for hospitals.

"On GetPPE.org, you can go on there and find places that you want to donate to across the United States," she explained. "We are even getting to the point where we have (hospitals) outside of the country. Slowly but surely."

Tyree welcomes other volunteers to join the public group "Million Mask Challenge - Creating Masks for Healthcare Workers & Caregivers" on Facebook. Members can share masks they're working on, or encouraging messages for people filling a high-volume order.


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