Some United Methodists have found ways to help in isolation. The United Methodist churches in Buffalo have 15 members and 20 volunteers from the community working to make masks for staff at the local nursing home.
Rev. Vicki Coons, associate pastor of First UMC and Grace Community UMC in Buffalo, has been heading up the project since Thursday of last week. One of the nursing homes where the church conducts worship services shared they would be out of masks within a week. She checked with two other nursing homes in town and found they were in a similar condition. Patterns for masks were found online using cotton material that the sewers already have on hand. Some patterns call for elastic straps, but Coons found that to be hard to obtain, so they are opting for straps made from the same material that just tie.
One group is cutting out the patterns at home, then dropping off the cutout material at the homes of skilled sewers, taking care not to come in contact with each other. The masks are being made with a slit, or gap, where the nursing home staff can add their own filters.
“People want to have something to do that is helpful,” Coons said.
The residents in the local nursing homes are now being restricted to their rooms, so they can’t participate in group activities. To help with this situation, the church is collecting craft projects, including Sunday school curriculum, to send to them to give them something to do while on room restriction.
When she’s not on church duty, Coons works at the local Dollar General, where she is also in ministry.
“I think a lot of our pastors may not realize just how scared people are right now,” Coons said. “There’s a lot of opportunities to pray with people in aisles of the store, and try to help them find some peace.”
Rev. Tina Harris, Director of Mission, Service and Justice Ministries, urges United Methodists who are moved to help to work through their local church mission chair or pastor to find out exactly what is needed in their own community so their efforts can be as fruitful as possible.
"If one person from the church can contact their local nursing home or health care provider directly, that will help keep the questions they have to answer to a minimum and help people not go to an effort that is needed or useful,” she said.
She also cautions churches to make sure that the elderly or any other vulnerable people are not doing anything that would increase their chances of exposure to the virus.
Check with intended location of donation before making masks, but if masks are requested instructions are available here: https://www.deaconess.com/How-to-make-a-Face-Mask?fbclid=IwAR1H25JhviFlqeBjj-LEwCUCGNf-PbJcst4fHxcnXOThUqoTk6CVQ8cuyRM