Merrimack Valley Hope Mission Turns Out 2,600 Masks as Group Adjusts to Current Needs

A sampling of some of the thousands of facial coverings turned out by Merrimack Valley Hope Mission. (Courtesy photograph.)

Each day, 97.9 WHAV FM has been setting aside time to highlight good deeds from community heroes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When public gathering rules stopped the Merrimack Valley Hope Mission from providing bagged lunches for the needy at Haverhill’s G.A.R. Park in March, the group quickly switched gears, recruited “sewing angels” and so far has turned out 2,600 facial coverings.

Merrimack Valley Hope Mission founder Joseph D’Amore of Groveland and collaborator Robin Hudson of Merrimac brainstormed about how they could help five weeks ago—before the national spotlight focused on masks. They concluded nursing homes, visiting nurse associations and even the public would need coverings.

“We reached out to people who could sew and we asked them to start sewing. We also did ask people to donate supplies such as fabrics, thread and elastics and we organized into a really well-knit unit, no pun intended,” he said.

Twenty-eight people went to work as the sewing angels. Another group—led by people such as Brenda Haskell of Groveland and Diane Andrews-Clarke of Andrews Insurance—went to work paying for and obtaining supplies. Haskell’s own inventory allowed the program to launch and produce 1,000 masks in two weeks.

The effort first began supplying people in Groveland, Merrimac, West Newbury and Newbury before deciding to expand in the larger population center of Haverhill

“I was a little apprehensive because I know Haverhill is a big town and there are a lot of people who are going to need masks. Our sewers stepped up where they’re sewing, literally, hundreds of masks,” D’Amore said.

To serve Haverhill, he said he needed the help of Dee O’Neil, who is the administrator of the Facebook page Haverhill MA 411. O’Neil and her volunteers have handed out half of the facial coverings right from her home and delivered the other half, using “foot soldiers” such as Lisa Carter, Mary Melendez and Tracy Menzies-Kuver.

Among others who have made the effort a success are Eva Montibello, Helen Sheehan, Amanda Clemenzi, Ellen Kuchar, Barbara McHugh and Pentucket Regional School Committee Chairwoman Lisa O’Connor.

“Boy, this woman is literally sewing day and night. I mean, I see the early morning messages and late at night. She’s going to end up creating 1,000 masks,” he said.

Linda Daneau of Merrimac is another person who took on special projects. She is working on supplying the smaller pediatric masks. The group is working to distribute 150 masks for children, under the care of the state Department of Children and Families. The children need coverings because of their own medical issues or to make physician appointments.

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