On a typical day, Shannon Heggem would be tending to her business, Luxury Unleashed, a luxury pet facility on the Hi-Line, but these days she’s putting her public relations and social media knowledge to different use.
Heggem, through conversations with friend and Northern Montana Hospital gynecologist Dr. Margo Hein-Muniz, recognized her hospital’s need for supplies, specifically face masks to be worn by patients.
“I said, ‘Hey, what do you think of starting a Facebook group?’” Heggem recalled to MTN News on Wednesday. “You know, so that we could bring everybody together. There's so much information out there and people can share it with one easy click.”
By Saturday afternoon, the Facebook group “ Help Needed To Sew Masks for Northern Montana Hospital ” was born.
“All of a sudden we had 30 members, 60 members, 90 members, and 48 hours later we had over 220 members. And it's just, I mean, it just took off and it's been exciting to watch,” said Heggem, who admitted it has been challenging monitoring the group, which Thursday morning sat at 272 members, to ensure proper protocol of the masks is being followed.
Volunteers came in the form of seamstresses and fabric donations, but cutting that fabric to the exact sizes necessary proved to be time-consuming. That’s when Janine Cartwright-Donoven, owner of JM Donoven Designs in Fine Jewelry, offered her computerized laser engraver.
“I downloaded the pattern and spent some time formatting it to my software, and then I took that format and sent it to my machine, my laser engraver, and kind of worked for a while fine-tuning the settings so I wouldn’t start the fabric on fire with the laser,” Cartwright-Donoven laughed, though serious.
“Literally what it can do, it can cut three different sizes — the small, medium and large — enough material in one full pass in 2 minutes, 30 seconds, versus the seamstresses having to cut those patterns, I don’t know how long it takes them to do it, but I can only imagine. They have to put each pattern out, trace it, hold it by hand and cut it with the scissors. If I can expedite the process for the seamstresses, so they don’t have to do the actual cutting, I’m in.”
The Facebook group has since added 3D mask printing and even gowns to its resume, with dozens of new volunteers joining to show their support for their family, friends and neighbors facing the coronavirus concerns head on.
On Monday, an appreciative Northern Montana Hospital shared a photo of its emergency room nurses donning some of the masks with the caption, “We really appreciate you, Havre and Hi-Line Folks!”
“I’m so grateful that there are people in our healthcare that are on the front line to fight things like this,” said Cartwright-Donoven. “I’m sure they’re worried, not only for their own well-being, but also the safety of their family members. To be able to do something, to help them have enough supplies on hand that they need to protect themselves, as well, really when I saw that picture, it pretty much gave me a lump in my throat.”