Lacombe seamstress sewing non-medical masks for the community

Busy Beaver Sewing Co. in Lacombe making two-layered cotton masks

With provincial and national health authorities in Canada now saying that homemade masks may be helpful in not transmitting COVID-19 to others, many businesses and individuals are stepping up to help provide their communities with non-medical masks.

Lili Poelzer, owner of Busy Beaver Sewing Co. in Lacombe, started making two-layered cotton masks nearly two weeks ago after a request from a friend.

“I found a pattern from the Providence Health Authority in the States. They have had reccomendations far longer than we have had here in Canada. I adapted that pattern to fit our needs here in Canada,” she said.

Since then, Poelzer and her company have been producing masks non-stop and she has since hired six other seamstresses to keep up with demmand and also employ people while the economy is down.

“In the past week, we have had close to 300 ordered,” she said.

Poelzer said the masks — which are currently being sold for $15, three or more for $13 and 100 or more for $12 each — said the business has helped her family through her husbands job loss.

“CERB, while helpful, doesn’t help a lot — especially when your wages are completely lost. Through this we can actually hire people to keep up with demmand,” she said

Currently, there isn’t a call from the medical community for homemade masks, so Poelzer and her team are focusing on individuals and businesses.

“People seem to be thankful we have this option,” she said.

Poelzer, of course, has been giving her clients the disclaimer that her masks are not medical grade — meaning there is no guarantee you will not catch or transmit COVID-19.

“These are basically, at this point, considered better than nothing,” she said. “What Alberta Health and Dr. Henshaw advised is that it mostly helps against you transmitting something. People who may be mild carriers may be still spreading it, so wearing cloth masks while you are grocery shopping can help stop the spread.”

Poelzer also has been providing provincial and federal guidelines on keep the masks clean and as safe as possible.

“If they get damp, they can maybe even harbour the virus. You need to change them out and you need to wash them in hot water to be able to sanitize them. We are reccomending everything the health authority is reccomending,” she said.

Currently, the best way to get in touch with Poelzer for masks is by contacting her at 604-354-3828 or by contacting her by email, Instagram or Facebook. Poelzer is also in need of supplies.

“Supplies are scarce. In the world we are used to, we can normally go out and get what we need. That is proving to be difficult now with suppliers closed down. We do have some online suppliers,” she said.

She added they can also contact her if they are interested in sewing.

“We do have six people who have signed on. I don’t know how many more we will need,” she said.

Poelzer said they have also sent their masks to the Government of Alberta in case they have need for her masks in the Bits and Pieces program.

“Basically people in the community can offer what they have and then the government will contact you if they are needed,” she said.

Poelzer said it is very weird to be creating masks during this pandemic.

“As weird as it is not to be doing grad dresses and wedding dresses at this time, we are happy we can fill a need. We hope that since we can hire people to work, that can be a positive light in the community,” she said.

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