Rachel Kilbride crafts masks Tuesday for workers and others who may need them from extra material at St. Bridget Center in Vassalboro. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Face masks may be in short supply during the coronavirus pandemic, but this family is making them as fast as they can to help those in need.

Alice Lachance, 82, of Winslow, her daughter, Rachel Kilbride, 65, of Vassalboro, and Lachance’s granddaughter, Brianna Counts, 23, of Fairfield, are cutting, sewing and snipping up a storm to create masks for midwives, priests, elderly people, those with immunity issues and others during the crisis.

The Maine CDC, however, does not recommend homemade masks for healthcare workers.

“It’s the least we can do in these times — that’s the way I feel,” Kilbride said Tuesday. “We get to keep busy and I’m just so impressed that so many people are helping others. We’ve seen the hoarding, but I don’t think we’ve seen all the good aspects of this.”

The women are making masks with mostly donated fabric, some of which features bunnies and other animals.

“I think it will be quite the fashion statement,” Kilbride said. “Instead of Easter bonnets, we’re all going to be sporting masks.”

Rachel Kilbride models a hand-crafted mask for workers and others Tuesday at St. Bridget Center in Vassalboro. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Cheerful is how one might describe Kilbride and Lachance, her mother, who has cut hundreds of squares of fabric in her Winslow home to take to Kilbride’s Vassalboro community and events space, St. Bridget Center, where Kilbride sews the masks.

Kilbride and her husband, James, transformed the former St. Bridget Catholic Church into the center a few years ago. Kilbride has a bi-monthly sewing group, Sew for a Cause, which meets at the center regularly but has stopped doing so temporarily because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Counts, the daughter of Lachance’s daughter Lisa, also helps with the mask effort, cutting out pieces of cloth from her Fairfield home.

About six women in Kilbride’s sewing group, as well as six others who heard about the effort, also are helping to make masks from their homes.

“I cut four pieces for each mask,” Lachance said. “Yesterday, I worked from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. We’re starting our own little factory.”

Lachance, who is left-handed, has a bad thumb on her left hand from surgery two years ago, so she has to stop cutting now and then. But she pushes on.

“I don’t care if I don’t live — I’m 82 — but I want the young ones to survive,” Lachance said. “Doing what we can do to help is all that matters.”

You might say doing for others is in her blood.

She recalled a story her mother told about living in the South End of Waterville in the late 1950s when she was walking down the street and encountered a pregnant woman who had no jacket.

“My mother said to her, ‘Take my sweater, take my jacket. I’m almost home. You’re just starting your trip,'” Lachance said. “If my mother saw someone poor, she’d take it off and give her a nickel when she didn’t have nickel.”

Lachance said that as Kilbride was sewing masks Tuesday morning, she also was roasting a turkey in the oven to give to an elderly couple.

Alice Lachance crafts masks Tuesday at St. Bridget Center in Vassalboro. The masks, made from extra material, are for workers and others who may need them during the pandemic. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

In normal times, the women in Kilbride’s Sew for a Cause group sew quilts and other items to donate to those in need. They made 300 quilts, for instance, and donated them to charities. They also made quilts for newborns, military veterans, the Children’s Home for Little Wanderers and Habitat for Humanity. They also have made hundreds of pillowcases.

Kilbride started the mask effort more than a week ago when she began receiving emails from people who saw the group’s Facebook page. Since the women in the group are high-risk for the coronavirus because they are older, they now are working from home, helping make masks.

Rachel Kilbride crafts masks Tuesday for workers and others who may need them, utilizing some from extra material at St. Bridget Center in Vassalboro. Morning Sentinel photo by Michael G. Seamans

Through word of mouth, people have contacted other people who need masks, including midwives, priests, elderly people, those with health issues and others.

The Maine CDC is not recommending that health care providers use homemade masks at this time, according to spokesman Robert Long in an email sent to the Portland Press Herald. Masks used in health care are made with medical-grade materials tested to meet industry standards. Fabric available in the community has not undergone such testing.

The agency does encourage sewing groups and businesses making the masks to explore other groups in the community who may use their product.

By Tuesday morning, Kilbride alone had made about 24 masks and was in the middle of creating another 50.

“I had six different patterns emailed to me from people that I know,” Kilbride said. “We’re sharing patterns, back and forth.”

She said it takes 20 to 30 minutes to sew a mask.

“I’m doing them by assembly line right now so I’ll be able to cut that time down a little bit,” she said.

Those who need masks, she said, may contact her at [email protected]

Meanwhile, Kilbride downplays her efforts, saying others are pitching in to help everywhere during these tumultuous times.

“There are so many other people doing good things,” she said. “I really want to make sure those people are recognized.”

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.