For local resident Teri Reuvers, creator of the Prayer Mask group, being a part of that group has been "really" fun and has helped her meet a lot of new people. 

On Wednesday in Central Park's band shell, a small group of Prayer Mask group members gathered for a sew-a-thon from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Some of the sewers present included Reuvers, Judy Judd (the fabric fairy), Karen Dempsey, Cindy Malecha, Darcie Boschee, Greg Stewart (the wonderman), Anika Gliem, Gerri Specken and Jackie Noble. Fran Reuvers (chief of opertations), Connie Remic (executive director of quality control), Ty Noble, Steve Judd and Cindy Clausen also helped out with the process. 

The group also had support from the Rice County Peace Makers as three members, President Marcia Speiker, Linda Staab and Marilyn Pitt joined in to sew masks. 

The Prayer Mask group began on March 28, after Reuvers' diagnosis with COVID-19 led her to focus on something else, such as the need to distribute masks to the members of the community. Now, over two months and 6,000 masks (and counting) later, the group's membership has increased to 115, both local residents and from states such as Texas, with a majority from the Rice County area. 

Like others, 11-year-old Gliem has also distributed masks to individual people in need. Gliem, who's been sewing for about three years, said she's also sewn pot holders and baby blankets for family members. Stewart, her next door neighbor, has been her teacher in developing a passion for sewing. 

Recipients of masks made from this group will notice a signature red heart, located in the lower right corner of the mask. The heart is shown as a reminder that others care. Reuvers says the masks are typically made in batches which include the "sandwich" phase of sewing one layer of fabric and one layer of PPE fabric together, with two elastic ear loops sandwiched in the middle. Then the nose wires (typically made from garden twist ties, bread twist ties, pipe cleaners or floral wires) are placed in the mask, followed by turning the mask inside out so the pleats can be added. Once those phases are complete, the mask is checked over for loose ends and the ear loops are also checked. Adding the red heart is the final step of making the prayer mask. 

Reuvers said the plethora of masks made from Wednesday's event will be given to the Somali Community Center, which will distribute them to those in that specific community who are in need. Other masks have been given to first responders, Children's Hospital, Gillette Children's Specialty Healthcare, Minnesota Teen/Adult Challenge, Northfield Public School's lunch program, area police and sheriff departments, Healthfinders Collaborative, Milestone Senior Living, Faribault Senior Living, Pleasant Manor Senior Living, the fire department, Justice for George group in Minneapolis, Northfield Retirement Center, Laura Baker Services Association and more. 

At Wednesday's sew-a-thon, members were also gifted with pizza, cookies and drinks donated by Willy Malecha of Malecha's Auto Body. Ali Jo Dupay and Asia Fillipi helped do their part by making frequent visits to add ice to the coolers and bring the pizza around lunch time. 

Member Cindy Malecha joined the group two weeks ago after Reuvers saw her posting about selling masks on Facebook. Malecha says she's always enjoyed sewing, and saw a need for making masks to make others in the community safer, especially her close friends and neighbors who have cancer. 

"It shows there are caring people and a lot of things in the community people aren't aware of," added Malecha of the group. 

Other members like Specken, agreed saying making the masks is a "good" thing to do, which was clear from the happy chatter between members as they made the masks in Central Park for the community to see. 

Reach reporter Michelle Vlasak at 507-333-3128 or follow her on Twitter @apgmichelle. ©Copyright 2020 APG Media of Southern Minnesota.  All rights reserved.

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