A local non-profit organisation has been working to make and supply face masks and other equipment which provides protection to key workers throughout the North East during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The North East Maskateers, based in East Durham, have been up and running since March.
Gail Watson works alongside Andy Miller to coordinate sewers, mask patterns, deliveries, raw materials and more.
Ms Watson said: “We deliver from Whitley Bay right the way down to North Yorkshire, and we have posted things out to all over the country as well.”
Over the past few weeks, the Maskateers have also started to make masks available to members of the public, which, as mentioned on their Facebook page can be purchased on PayPal with a suggested donation of £3.50.
According to Ms Watson, any funds that are left will go to NHS charities.
She said: “We have only just made the masks available to the public these last few weeks.
“Knowing that everyone was going to have to wear one we wanted people to be safe.”
Following a government announcement, face coverings were made compulsory when entering some indoor public spaces such as supermarkets, shops and shopping centres from Friday, July 24.
Ms Watson explained that the Maskateers “try and prioritise people with health conditions and those on the frontline dealing with the public or volunteering.”
Their PayPal pool has a goal of £5,000 at the time of writing and the statement on their page says: “We need to raise money for the materials to manufacture face masks and scrubs for the NHS and the care industry, the vulnerable and key workers such as pharmacy staff, morgues and funeral directors.”
The non-profit organisation also provides scrubs.
Hospitals they have delivered these to include Darlington Memorial Hospital and the University Hospital of North Tees.
Ms Watson clarified that the Maskateers “do not provide Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).”
They have recently seen some Bishop Auckland residents join as volunteers and have started to deliver in the area.
Ms Watson said: “We have just started delivering to Bishop Auckland and have taken on volunteers from there.”
They have recently called for more volunteers who will have the opportunity to help their local community.
“We had a dip in volunteers as people returned to work and a lot of volunteers are in isolation anyway, so it’s giving them something positive to do which they say is great for their mental health and wellbeing but also they are part of our community.”
Ms Watson mentioned how the Maskateers only expected to run for a few weeks but now they “will continue to supply for as long as there is a real need for it.”
She also explained more about the protection the masks they make provide to those who wear them.
“We try and keep up to the World Health Organisation (WHO) standards by using three layers for the masks.”
The masks and scrubs have also had a positive impact on North East communities, according to Ms Watson.
“We have had letters of thank you, and thank you comments saying that it has had a huge impact.
“At the University Hospital of North Tees, in the Intensive Care Ward they were wearing them, and we have just had a lovely thank you from them.”
Another organisation they delivered masks to was King’s Church in Durham.
Ruth Smedley is the Achor outreach coordinator for the church who helps to coordinate outreach activities in the Achor Community.
She said: “The masks arrived really promptly and we distributed them to elderly and isolated residents on the Sherburn Road Estate through our befriending scheme and lunch club.
“We also gave them to volunteers who are helping in the community through delivering shopping to those who are shielding.”
Ms Smedley said the masks “are really good quality, lovely and colourful” and “will help residents feel safer using public transport and going to the shops.”