Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Williamsburg Bazaar starts sewing circle to make face masks

Some healthcare facilities, such as Riverside Healthcare, are taking donations of home made masks to help protect staff and locals. (WYDaily/Courtesy Riverside Healthcare)
Some healthcare facilities, such as Riverside Healthcare, are taking donations of home made masks to help protect staff and locals. (WYDaily/Courtesy Riverside Healthcare)

Over the past few weeks, the image of doctors scrambling for face masks has been raising concern so one local store is helping to fill the need.

Vendors with the local store Williamsburg Bazaar have come together to create a sewing circle that creates fabric masks for local health care workers, said owner Janey Sawyer. The project started when vendor Donna Nerecena started making the masks for her daughter and granddaughter who work in health care.

Nerecena’s daughters had mentioned they were wearing masks for days at a time because there was a shortage so Nerecena stepped up and started making masks to donate to local health care facilities.

“It’s so important because they’re out there working and doing so very hard to keep us well, but they don’t have enough supplies,” Nerecena said.

Before the group started in mid-march, Nerecena had already made and donated approximately 60 masks. Since then, other vendors with Williamsburg Bazaar heard of her work and wanted to join in.

“We live to give back to the community,” Sawyer said. “When you have something like this, that’s a tragedy or national disaster, it’s human nature for most people to try and help their neighbors.”

Sawyer said the stores have received calls from various medical offices in the area asking if they could make masks for them as well.

However, these masks are not made to prevent the coronavirus, Sawyer said. Instead, they’re used to prolong the longevity of a medical facemask.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, homemade masks should be used as a last resort. They are not considered as personal protective equipment because it is unknown whether they are capable of protecting against the virus. 

These masks can become useful when used in combination with a medical facemask and should cover the entire front, meaning it extends to the chin or below, and sides of the face.

Sawyer said Nerecena has been checking in with vendors making the masks to ensure they are being made with the proper CDC guidance. 

Some local health care systems such as Riverside Healthcare are gladly accepting donations of these homemade masks, according to Riverside’s website. However, health care professionals are unable to use them in clinical settings.

Riverside said its infection control and infectious disease experts will determine if the masks are needed and will sanitize them before use.

Riverside is recommending the masks be provided to friends and neighbors who are caring for family members with the virus. 

To make a mask, Riverside recommends using two layers of tightly woven cotton fabric and tied together with elastic. While the elastic to make the masks is in high demand, Riverside recommends using elastic hair bands.

Nerecena said it takes about four days to make 60 masks. While she works on them most nights, the help from the community will help the work move faster and reach more people.

“It makes my heart so proud because it’s amazing how many people come together that you didn’t even know before,” she said.

Because some of those supplies are limited, Sawyer is asking the community to donate scraps of cotton or leftover elastic.

Sawyer said people can reach out to Williamsburg Bazaar through the store’s website or Facebook and arrange a time to drop off donations at the store. Once the material is collected, it is washed and pre-shrunk before it can be used to make the masks.

The nonprofit Proclaiming Grace Outreach donated a large trash bag of cotton earlier in March.

The cotton came from the organization’s thrift store, Thrift Spot in Barhamsville, which has been closed since March 14, said Executive Director Melaine King. She said it’s been difficult for the organization because the thrift store was the main source of revenue to fund a variety of programs. 

She said the organization is still looking for ways to give back to the community, such as donating pounds of fabric to make masks.

“Since we’ve been closed, it’s been heart-wrenching to not have access to the community of people we serve,” King said. “So it’s a pleasure to help in some small ways.”

To learn more, visit Williamsburg Bazaar online.


Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron
Alexa Doiron is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She graduated from Roanoke College and is currently working on a master’s degree in English at Virginia Commonwealth University. Alexa was born and raised in Williamsburg and enjoys writing stories about local flair. She began her career in journalism at the Warhill High School newspaper and, eight years later, still loves it. After working as a news editor in Blacksburg, Va., Alexa missed Williamsburg and decided to come back home. In her free time, she enjoys reading Jane Austen and playing with her puppy, Poe. Alexa can be reached at

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