By Tom Tolen/

Several volunteers from the Hartland and Brighton areas have gotten together through the generosity of a Hartland fabric store to make face masks during the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

Emily Lauren, owner of the Hartland Quilt Shop, decided one day she wanted to help in any way she could with the coronavirus outbreak, and felt an ideal use of unsold fabric she had around her store would be perfect to use for face masks. It’s not the N95 surgical masks that must adhere to stringent manufacturing guidelines, but the kind made for use by the general population. Lauren felt that nursing homes, assisted living centers, even hospitals (for non-surgical use) could use the masks. And she believed the Hartland Consolidated School District, where some staff members have been coming in to prepare for the start of online learning classes on April 13th, could use them, too. Lauren herself isn’t involved in making the masks because she is too busy running the store. The shop is not currently open as a result of the governor’s Stay at Home edict for non-essential business. However, Lauren says she is doing a booming online business because so many people are home and have time on their hands.

Some of her customers offered to take the fabric and make the masks, and she now has about 10 volunteers fashioning them, often using bright, colorful fabrics and patterns. Lauren, who says they’ve now made several hundred masks, has even recorded a 2-minute tutorial on her website on how to make them from the material she supplies to them free of charge. And she adds that some of the fabric she has given to her cadre of volunteers was donated by two major fabric companies: Art Gallery Fabrics and Northcott Fabrics. The masks have gone to the Hartland Consolidated School District, two nursing homes or assisted living centers, and to Detroit Medical Center Huron Valley-Sinai Hospital in Commerce Township (which also was given 30 surgical caps made by one of the women). Some 50 masks were even requested by, and shipped to, a retirement home from as far away as Port Orchard, Washington.

Patti Margarita of Hartland, who confides that her family is often the butt of gentle kidding due to their surname, is Lauren’s “champion” mask-maker, having made about 150 all by herself. Margarita, who is employed as a secretary at the Farms Intermediate School in Brighton Twp., gave Lauren the idea for making the masks, saying the local schools were woefully short of them. “I wanted to make sure all the people I work with had masks,” she says, “so, I supplied all the schools.” The lone exception was Ore Creek Middle School, with Margarita saying she will be making those in the near future. She says it’s a labor of love, remarking that, “The whole (school) district is like a family.”

Although the masks made by her volunteer group do not have HEPA filters, a company called BioSmart has a new, patented technology that binds chlorine in laundry to its fabric, killing 99.9% of bacteria and viruses. And it’s reusable, since the fabric recharges with each wash in which an EPA-registered chlorine bleach is used. Once they receive their order, Lauren will start distributing the filters to her volunteers, who will sew it into the fabric of the masks. “It’s an added layer of protection,” she says. She does not have a specific goal in numbers of masks she hopes are made, but Lauren says the program will continue into the foreseeable future.

Anyone who would like to volunteer for Lauren’s group, or donate unused fabric, may contact her at www.HartlandQuiltShop.comor call 810-844-4060.