Wood County woman starts face mask ministry
By City Times staff
WOOD COUNTY – Debra Schenk is a retired occupational therapist with a passion to help others, so when the COVID-19 outbreak hit it wasn’t long before her instinct as a therapist kicked in.
“Every time I heard the news on COVID-19, I wished I could do something to help out,” Schenk said. “One day in Aldi’s, I saw an elderly couple making their best efforts to keep bandanas secure around their faces. The bandanas were sliding down their faces. It was at that moment that I realized I could help them if only I had some face masks to give them.
“I got busy, reading the online patterns and decided which patterns and materials I thought I could locate in my home, curbside pickup or social distance wearing mask and gloves with a wipe in my hand.”
“Occupational therapists learn about many materials so they can make adaptive equipment for the people they help in hospitals, schools, senior programs, etc.”
Schenk then developed a “face mask ministry,” similar to prayer shawl ministry, using face masks instead of shawls.
“(A prayer shawl ministry is a) loosely knit group of women who knit and crochet and make small afghans for people,” she said. “People may be sick, they may be confined, they may be just isolated because they’re living alone because they’re older and they make these and they put them in a place in church and they can be picked up by anyone who knows someone or by any individual for free. They want to do these things for the comfort of another person.”
Schenk has been writing up a model for making and distributing masks that can be used anywhere.
“Everybody has a specific mask style that they can find materials for and are capable of doing. Even if it’s not perfect, it’s better than nothing,” she explained. “The model is that you find a pattern, you make them for your friends and family, then you want to keep making and helping the cause so then you have these piles of masks and you find out who needs them.”
Schenk said that she needs to look no farther than the grocery store to find people who need masks.
She added that by dividing up responsibilities, the group may become more effective. Multiple people can be involved – one person makes one component, another person handles another.
Schenk is currently working with organizations in the Wisconsin Rapids area, such as the Lowell Senior Center, Crossview Church, and churches in the Wisconsin Rapids Catholic deanery.
“If you need a mask or know someone who needs a mask, contact the Lowell Senior Center or St. Phillip’s (Catholic Church),” Schenk added.
If you would like to get involved, contact Schenk at 414-291-9114.