Farralee Baldwin (right) and her daughter, Joni, sew masks for troops in the Middle East.

When federal and state officials encouraged and later mandated the use of cloth face masks to slow the spread of COVID-19, residents and staff at Trinity Community at Miami Township — a United Church Homes community in Dayton, Ohio — got to work.

Within a few days, the independent living community’s marketing director, Molly Blumer, sewed fabric masks for its 35 staff members. In addition the nearby Dayton Sewing Collaborative donated 100 cloth masks to protect residents of the community.

“I wanted my colleagues to feel comfortable coming to work,” Blumer said, adding that she leaned on the sewing skills she developed in 4-H as an adolescent.

Meanwhile, residents Farralee Baldwin, Faith Wagner and Mary Huesman were dusting off their sewing machines, knitting needles and crochet hooks. Baldwin is the recipient of United Church Homes’ 2020 Spirit Award from Trinity at Miami Township for her faithful volunteerism.

Baldwin, an avid seamstress, and her daughter, Joni Baldwin, who secured the necessary supplies, both sewed additional masks for those who needed them. When asked why she decided to sew so many masks, Baldwin responded, “I just think everyone needs to do things to help their fellow man.”

Ear protectors help make the masks more comfortable, especially for people wearing hearing aids.

Based on feedback, they tweaked the initial design, and Wagner and Huesman set out to make yarn ear protectors, which are used instead of elastic to secure the mask to the head — elastic that may pull on the ears. This was especially important for the comfort of people who use hearing aids.

After all Trinity residents and staff were covered, the volunteers turned their sights on helping deployed U.S. troops. Resident program manager Stella Goodyk, who has a relative serving in the Middle East, learned members of the military needed cloth masks in specific colors. So far, the team of seamstresses at Trinity at Miami Township have made and shipped 90 masks to overseas troops.

The mask recipients deployed from a unit in Akron, Ohio, HHC1-145. The soliders “liked our masks better than others because they didn’t cover their whole face, so they were much cooler,” said Vanessa Asbury of Carlisle, Ohio, Goodyk’s niece. “They need anything they can get to keep them cool in the desert!”