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    Whidbey Island Sailor Leads Effort to Bring Masks to Community



    Courtesy Story

    Patrol Squadron 46

    By: Lt j.g. A.J. Godeaux, Patrol Squadron 46 Public Affairs

    OAK HARBOR, Wash. -- When Petty Officer First Class Valerie Mascho saw her Whidbey Island community and workplace being affected by Covid-19, she decided to turn on her sewing machine.

    “I was asking myself what I could to help, and with sewing being one of my talents I figured that making masks would be the best way to do good,” Mascho, an Aviation Electronics Mate assigned to Patrol Squadron (VP) 46, said.

    Beginning in mid-March, Mascho started hand making masks and helped create the public Facebook group “Whidbey Personal Protective DIYers,” which allows Whidbey Island community members to coordinate donating materials as well as making and delivering personal protective equipment to the community. Almost immediately, she received a request from hospital workers at Island Hospital for an order of masks. The operation has only grown from there, with over 18,000 masks distributed as of June 2.

    On April 6, the Department of Defense (DoD) issued an order that all personnel on DoD installations wear masks when proper social distancing protocols could not be kept. Mascho saw some of her coworkers wearing improvised homemade masks, and decided to get the “DIYers” involved.

    “Initially the group was a way to organize getting masks to healthcare workers, but with the need for masks stretching to the entire community, we then expanded to other essential workers like firefighters and military,” Mascho said.

    Mascho has taken it upon herself to personally distribute as many masks as possible to personnel on Naval Air Station (NAS) Whidbey Island, and estimates she has already delivered over 6,000 masks on base alone. The military aid has not stopped there. Mascho recently sent an order of masks to personnel stationed in Hawaii.

    “This has also been a great way to show the bond between the community and military,” Mascho said. “The Sailors and workers receiving the masks have been so grateful. I’ve had commanding officers give me command coins and words of thanks to pass on to the’s just been awesome to see that two-way relationship at work.”

    As of May the group is taking orders from anyone in the community in need of masks, and has recently begun mask giveaway events in Oak Harbor. All donations from these events are given to the local food bank.

    “The [giveaway] drives are a way for us to bring this to the whole community,” Mascho said. “Free of charge we can give masks to those who possibly can’t make, afford or find suitable masks themselves.”

    “People can drive up and we’ll ask what type of mask they’d like and show them our inventory,” Mascho continued. “If they’d like to make a donation they can do that as well. With that money going to the food bank, that’s another way we’ve been able to help the community.”

    The “DIYers” have received over $16,000 in donations as of June 4.

    Mascho also noted the “DIYers’” volunteer force is not limited solely to those who can make masks.

    “We have had so many people donate materials, whether it’s fabrics or pipe cleaners or elastics to make the masks, and we have multiple volunteers who offer to drive up and down the island to deliver for us,” Mascho said. “People are helping every way they can. We even have volunteers who have made plastic earguards to put behind the elastic straps so the masks are more comfortable.”

    The “DIYers” also have a website,, where individuals can fill out a request form for their own masks. The website also includes mask and material drop off locations. The “Whidbey Personal Protective DIYers” Facebook group is also still regularly updated, and includes dates, times and locations of mask giveaway events.



    Date Taken: 06.16.2020
    Date Posted: 06.16.2020 14:18
    Story ID: 372236
    Location: OAK HARBOR, WA, US 
    Hometown: DECATUR, AL, US

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