LARNED — At last count, the Pawnee Valley Community Hospital Auxiliary has sewn and donated 4,522 face masks to local and area health care providers, organizations and individuals.


And the number continues to grow.


The project began in mid-March when Melanie Urban approached the auxiliary, asking if it could tackle a face mask project to help with current coronavirus safety precautions. Urban is administrator at the University of Kansas Health System Pawnee Valley Campus in Larned.


The answer was "yes."


Barbara Hammond, of Larned, a 12-year auxiliary member, said that "initially, we were sewing masks for the hospital to supply to outpatients. This would help save medical masks for hospital personnel during the pandemic."


The need for masks skyrocketed, and the auxiliary kept up the pace. More than a dozen other community organizations and many individuals have used the locally crafted face coverings.


"We knew that masks had been ordered but they were on back order because of COVID-19," Hammond said. "The public couldn’t find masks for their own protection and to help prevent spreading the virus to others. Our face-mask project helped protect our families, and the positive response from the community has been overwhelming."


The auxiliary donated fabric, interfacing, elastic and thread. Some members donated their personal "stashes" of material.


"When others in the community learned about the project, they also donated items from their mothers’ and grandmothers’ stashes," Hammond said.


The recent auxiliary report to Pawnee Valley Campus illustrates the amount of its donations in terms of expenses for fabric, labor and mileage. Auxiliary and in-kind contributions came to $12,713.50.


In addition to Pawnee Valley Campus, organizations that received masks include Larned State Hospital; Country Living ALF; Diversicare; Heart of Kansas Family Health Care; Smith Dental Clinic; Rosenberg Dental Clinic; Pawnee County Health Department; Pawnee County Sheriff’s Department; Larned Police Department; Jordaan Memorial Library; Housing Opportunities Inc.; Edwards County Hospital; and Larned Correctional Mental Health Facility.


Auxiliary members also provided masks to small businesses and families.


"Auxiliary members have outdone themselves," Urban said. "They are always here to support our hospital, but this face-mask project has been extraordinary.


"Their willingness to make thousands of masks is yet another demonstration of support for our patients and their families. But then they took it to the next level by including the whole Pawnee County community."