ALLEGANY — As the Franciscan Sisters of Allegany continue their prayers for the community and world during the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the hopes for their own home, St. Elizabeth Motherhouse, is that they will receive more face masks.
Sister Mary Lou Lafferty, local minister for the congregation, said the Sisters were very fortunate to have recently received 75 handmade cotton face masks from the Allegany County NY Facemask Warriors, a grassroots group of volunteers, but more are needed along with disinfectants, sanitizers and other cleaning agents.
On Tuesday, Lafferty said direct care staff at the Motherhouse began wearing the masks immediately after they received them in their ongoing effort to protect the Sisters from the virus — as many are in their 80s, 90s and on up to 102 and are very vulnerable.
“They’re all sporting (the masks) today, thank God,” Lafferty said of the 85 staff members.
But she noted the donated masks, which are washed at the Motherhouse after each staff person leaves, have to make do for the various shifts. Unlike some nursing facilities, the Motherhouse is a non-profit, private congregate health facility and doesn’t qualify for federal or state assistance.
“We’re hanging out here alone,” Lafferty said of the Motherhouse, located on a hill above East Main Street in Allegany.
While the Cattaraugus County Emergency Management Office had provided the home with some sanitizer and plastic face shields, John Bhe, Motherhouse maintenance supervisor, “keeps coming to a dead end” when requesting supplies from their regular vendors, Lafferty said. The disinfectant wipes and various cleaning products are needed as the staff has to constantly wipe down and clean areas.
“They just keep saying, ‘When they get supplies they’ll give us what they can,” she said. “But right now, their supplies are all exhausted.”
Lafferty said the Motherhouse is trying to follow all of the state and federal guidelines in ensuring their staff is well at work by taking their temperatures at the door before they start their shift. That has been a challenge without the proper supplies.
Which is why the recent donation of masks is very much appreciated, but has to be washed after every shift so they’ll be available for all employees.
As for face masks needed, Lafferty said they will accept two-ply, cotton masks or those with more layering. She noted the facility has a number of surgical masks on-hand, but are keeping them in the event one of the Sisters becomes ill with COVID-19.
“When we have to use those, that’s what we’ll immediately go into,” she said of the emergency supply.
Lafferty said she and the other Sisters and staff are also grateful for Amy Booker, registered nurse and director of nursing, as well as Bhe, for their leadership roles at the facility during the crisis.
“We meet every week so we’re all on the same page with the rest of the staff,” Lafferty explained.
As for the donated masks, Lafferty said the Motherhouse was able to obtain them through the coordinating efforts of Nikki Scholes of the Facemask Warriors group. Scholes, an employee at the Wellsville Central School District, is a friend of Adrienne Ordway, a nurse at the Motherhouse.
In an email, Scholes said the volunteer group began connecting by Facebook Messenger on March 24 and includes “talented seamstresses” who connected very quickly with sewing patterns and creative tips on working around supply shortages.
“Our goal is to help as many local health care and direct care providers as possible keep themselves and those they serve safe,” Scholes said in her message. “As requests began to come into our group, we realized the incredible need for protective equipment. Many healthcare and direct care providers throughout Allegany and Cattaraugus Counties are working with an inadequate supply of personal protective equipment – including face masks.”
Scholes said volunteers with the group “have worked day and night to sew washable and reusable face masks” to protect individuals who include doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses and lab technicians as well as cleaning and food service essential health care staff, among others. She said the group has received and distributed over 450 masks in the two counties.
“We would also like to recognize the countless numbers of people who are also generously sewing and donating to their friends, families and neighbors on their own in all of our communities,” she continued. “The outpouring of support toward this cause has been a joy to be a part of. We have received generous donations of fabric, bias tape, spools of thread and elastic to share with those who are sewing face masks, as many have exhausted their personal supplies.”
Those who would like to help the group are asked to contact Scholes at (585) 307-0942 or join its Facebook group page at Allegany County NY Facemask Warriors.
To donate masks to the Motherhouse, contact Lafferty at 373-0200.
(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)