Los Osos resident Morgan Berden has made and donated more than 700 face masks during the coronavirus pandemic. Photo submitted

When stay at home orders took effect in March, face masks were almost as difficult to find as toilet paper and flour. That is when 25-year-old Morgan Berden of Los Osos decided to help.

“I had seen videos online of hospitals asking for people to make and donate masks,” said Morgan. “I saw a couple tutorials for the Olson Mask pattern and figured I would give it a go with what little fabric I had just bought from Picking Daisies in SLO online.”

To date, Morgan has made more than 700 masks using a combination of donated materials as well as her own supplies.

“I had only gotten my sewing machine about a week before the virus had traveled to the U.S. and had only began sewing once masks were in need,” she said. “I learned as I went along making masks getting tips and tricks from others online and from my lovely mother. I grew up watching her sew all the time, and so I would video call her anytime there was a crisis.”

Morgan also has help cutting the material from Susan Jonas, who found the mask maker on Nextdoor, a social networking site designed for neighborhoods.

“The masks have 6 pieces total and before her help, I was working 18 hour days and staying up until 2 a.m. cutting the next days batch,” Morgan said. “She makes a ‘drop’ almost daily if not two times a day. I generally make batches of 20 at a time, and that usually takes me about 5-6 hours (including snack and mind wandering breaks). I have a set up with my laptop usually playing some video while I sew, so the time really does fly by.”

So far, masks have been donated to many people including high-risk individuals, prison workers, healthcare workers and grocery store employees as well as organizations and businesses including The SLO County Food Bank, SLO Hospice Morro Bay Fitness Works, Pacific Wildlife Care, Art Center Morro Bay and SLO Eye Associates. It should be noted that these are not N95-type masks such as those worn by healthcare professionals.

As more of the state opens and coronavirus lockdown measures ease, cloth face masks still remain high on the list of recommendations to help limit the spread of COVID-19 in areas where social distancing of six feet is difficult.

Currently, Morgan said she has the fabric she needs, but that could change.

“I had about 90lbs of fabric donated and have bought some myself,” she said. “I have also had over 100 spools of thread donated. All has been either donated to me from people who saw me on Nextdoor or knew someone that told them about my work, most of which has been cut and sewn into masks” Morgan also set up a no-touch system in her yard where people can place the fabric in the driveway either under a tarp, if it is raining, or nearby the mask pick-up table.

“I thought very few people would be in need, but little did I know I would be making over 700,” said Morgan. “I kept my first few masks; they were a bit shabby and had some parts inside-out etc. But now that I have made so many, I know I can try to apply it to other things.

When will she stop?
“I recently had 1,000 flash in my mind, but I know if I did make it to 1,000 and people still needed them, I would make them,” said Morgan, who originally bought the sewing machine to make hammocks, beds, and pouches for the home rehabilitation volunteers for Pacific Wildlife Care “My goal is to keep making masks as long as people need them. I understand how difficult it is to try to find them in stores and those are usually disposable. My masks are machine washable and reusable and don’t have a price tag. I want everyone to be able to feel safe during this time regardless of financial status.” 
For more information, send an e-mail to OliviaMBerden@gmail.com or find her on FaceBook under Morgan Berden.

What the CDC Says:
“Cloth face coverings may slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure.”
• Wash your hands before putting on your face covering
• Put it over your nose and mouth and secure it under your chin
• Try to fit it snugly against the sides of your face
• Make sure you can breathe easily
• Keep the covering on your face the entire time you’re in public
• Don’t put the covering around your neck or up on your forehead
• Don’t touch the face covering, and, if you do, wash your hands