Fire stations across Minnesota to collect homemade mask donations

Fire departments across Minnesota will serve as collection points Saturday for a statewide homemade mask drive.

More than 700 fire stations will be gathering the donated masks from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; the masks will be provided to staff members and residents of group-care facilities across the state.

A collection of homemade masks
Sherri Kinkel, owner of Material Girl Fabric and Crafts in Virginia, Minn., says she's made 350 masks. She has made many available for free at the "mask tree" outside her home.
Courtesy of Sherri Kinkel

Fabric and quilt shops in Minnesota have been busy as they provide mask-making supplies by mail or curbside pick-up.

Sherri Kinkel owns Material Girl Fabrics and Crafts in Virginia, on the Iron Range. She has sold fabric for masks to St. Louis County and Blue Cross Blue Shield, as well as to individuals. Her shop also distributed 200 mask-making kits to the community, made available for free from the Minneapolis-based nonprofit Sew Good Goods.

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Like other fabric shops, she is open for curbside pick-up only, and she is handling orders by phone in a system she refers to as “shop by text.” Kinkel is 65, and her husband has existing health concerns, so she is being particularly cautious.

Kinkel said she has plenty of quilt-quality fabric but said elastic is in short supply. With her regular supply unavailable, she’s been purchasing elastic on eBay and Amazon. In lieu of elastic, fabric ties or shoelaces also can be used.

Kinkel said being able to keep her business running, even in a partial way, is making a big difference as that income is helping her keep up with insurance and taxes until she can fully reopen when allowed.

“I don’t want to get too far behind, because if I get behind, I’ll never catch up, then I’ll lose my business," she said.

Kinkel also is sewing masks herself: 350 at last count.

“So when you’re a fabric and craft store, what do you do when you’re told you can work and you’re used to going to work 6 days a week?” said Kinkel. As soon as the stay-at-home order was announced, “the first thing I did was call my daughter, who owns a store in Nashwauk, and I said ‘do your front-line workers need face masks?’ I started making them for her, and I have not stopped.”

Kinkel also hangs her completed masks on a “mask tree” in her front yard, available to those who need them.

Find more information on Saturday's mask drive — and tips for how to sew your own masks — here.