Millie Stahl, 89 years old, doing her part in pressing personal protective masks.

By Gwen Rollings

Plato once said, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” Translation: needing something leads to creating something to satisfy that need.

Georgana Collins in Apollo Beach and her 89-year-old mother, Millie Stahl, collaborated in recent days to create a solution for the shortage of personal protective masks. Collins is the administrator and a nurse with Hanson Services In-Home Care and Assistance in Sun City Center.

The necessity was providing adequate protection for 80 caregivers who visit clients during the coronavirus pandemic.

Collins said, “All of our caregivers continue to work. Our clients depend on us. We needed to ensure the safety of our caregivers, the clients and all the families involved.”

Doing that proved to be a challenge. Even though an online order for masks was possible, the masks could not be delivered until June. Inventing a solution was the immediate priority.

Collins discussed the situation with her mother, and they determined a remedy was possible. Stahl was an accomplished seamstress half a century ago. She made dance recital costumes replete with hand-sewn sequins and square dancing costumes then.

Collins said, “Even though I haven’t sewed for probably 30 years, we got back on the bicycle and took out the sewing machine to figure out how to make this work.”

A prototype had to take into consideration the size of masks, the material needed and the steps involved. The masks needed to cover the nose and mouth and still have elastic sized correctly to keep the masks snugly in place. These two ladies went to work. Stahl had some material at home, but Collins bought additional materials and elastic locally.

For almost a week, the mother and daughter duo spent four to five hours every day producing these personal safeguards, which they say is a labor of love. Stahl pins each piece of material individually to a pattern, cuts it out and irons it.

Next, Collins sews the pleats in place, then more ironing is done by her mother. After that, the elastic is attached, and Stahl irons once more to ensure each mask is “crisp and neat.”

All caregivers wash their own masks every night, place each separately in a sealed bag with the clients’ names printed on the outside. One caregiver, Lupita Melchor-Guerrero, even made her own masks.

Collins is clearly proud of her team, “who never quit despite the challenges.”

As her 89-year-old mother of the invention agreed, “I just wanted to do my share to help out.”

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