Even with some social distancing guidelines being reduced, the public demand for face masks still exists. And one Hastings organization’s cause for making masks is becoming the cat’s meow.
Judy Hoch, president of the Adams County Feline Coalition, started out making masks to donate to health care workers and for neighbors. But as more people reached out to Hoch about obtaining a mask, she realized she could do some additional good for the coalition.
“I got to thinking that the whole mask-wearing thing could really develop into a necessity for our society,” Hoch said. “We met with our board of directors and we thought, ‘Maybe we could help the kitties by making (masks).’ On our board ... we have cutters and people that do the first seam, so it’s really been a group project. We don’t have a membership of our organization; it’s just six women that run the board, and they’ve all pitched in.”
The board members fo the Adams County Feline Coalition have made more than 1,100 masks to date. After putting their initial focus equipping health care workers, the group started hearing from companies that were looking to help their employees stay safe and healthy.
“A lot of ours went to the hospital — obviously that is the first priority, is our health care workers. But now that everyone’s wearing a mask, really masks are important for all sectors of life,” Hoch said. “We are now starting to take orders from businesses. We did 300 for Eaton and then for other smaller businesses, we’ve done 20 here, 12 there, 15 there, 40 on the next order. A lot of businesses are stepping up and providing cloth masks to do what they can to protect their own employees.”
The ACFC board is made up of Hoch, Susie Stahl, Mary Seiler, Kristin Pavelka, Kristin Buhr and Meg May. Together, the six have formed their own assembly line, but one that ensures they are still able to maintain social distancing guidelines. Hoch said she buys the fabric and then drops it off at the house of a fellow board member to have the material cut. It is then put into plastic bags and dropped off at another member’s house for the next stage of the process.
“We text, ‘Hey, I have my masks cut out and I’m going to leave them on the front porch.’ We have not seen each other through all of this because we know the importance of not being together and social distancing,” Hoch said.
Though the Feline Coalition hasn’t made masks with kittens on the fabric, they have created some fun masks. Hoch said she just ordered some Kansas State University fabric for her daughter and son-in-law and said she’s also got some Husker material heading her way.
“We may not have football, but we can at least show our pride for our football team,” she said.
Hoch said she’s seen some masks for sale in Hastings as expensive as $15 or $20. She believes that’s “a bit much” for some people to afford, so she and the coalition are selling their masks for just $5, with all of the profits going to the ACFC.
“That’s a pretty cheap way to protect your health and the ones you love,” Hoch said.
The Adams County Feline Coalition has two main focuses, one of which is working with trappers to round up feral felines to have them neutered and then release them. The cats also are administered a rabies vaccination before they are released. Hoch said the board is extremely thankful for the veterinary clinics — Companion’s Choice, TLC Vet Care and Animal Clinic — that have agreed to work with the coalition. She said they are “part of the heroes of our project.”
ACFC’s other priority is providing supplemental cat food to seniors with felines who struggle to afford to buy food for their furry friends.
“If you’re a senior and living by yourself, buying cat food can be a stretch on a limited budget. Yet, having a cat is tremendous companionship,” Hoch said. “Having those animals is sometimes the main reason to get up in the morning. We think providing them with a little boost to their kitty is a great thing, too.”
Hoch and the board had to take a brief break from making masks while waiting for a shipment of elastic to come in. But now, fully stocked with materials, Hoch said the ACFC board is ready to take mask orders from the public, with a limit of six per order.
“We have too many people wanting them so we have a limit of six, but if they want to order they can reach us through Facebook or through email@example.com,” Hoch said. “There are so many women sewing masks right now; we just have a little niche in it because we’re doing it for the kitties and for the community. That’s the bottom line: We’re doing this not because we’re making big bucks, but we’re doing this because people need to be wearing these masks.”