Temple Israel volunteers sew masks for members in need

By Louise Rachlis for Temple Israel Ottawa

Switching from sewing baby quilts to sewing masks, Patsy Royer and Merle Haltrecht-Matte of Temple Israel Ottawa have been filling a community need.

Early in this time of social distancing, Patsy, an avid sewer, had begun trying out different patterns for masks for a couple of her neighbours.

She was approached by a friend to make masks for herself and her husband, as well as the PSWs who come into their house to help with his personal care.

“Then a second person approached me,” she said, “and the idea quickly came to me to make masks available to seniors and other Temple members in need.”

Volunteers have since collected many dozens of masks from Patsy and Merle to deliver around the city to Temple Israel congregants.

While in ordinary times, Patsy and Merle lead the Temple Quilting Committee, they quickly switched operations. “We are using the fabric from our personal stashes,” said Patsy. “The masks are made with an opening for inserting a liner such as a coffee filter easily. They are also completely washable.”

Patsy and Merle “whipped up about 40 off the bat” and Temple is still handling “requests from seniors, the vulnerable, and members who are otherwise compromised.”

The two women donate the masks to Temple Israel and ask for nothing in return, however, a number of people have made donations to the Ottawa Kosher Food Bank or to Temple Israel in gratitude.

Patsy and Merle have also provided masks for Creative Connections participants and other organizations such as the Ottawa Hospice and the Rotary Club.

Olly Wodin has been running Creative Connections meetings via Zoom on Tuesday mornings for older seniors for a few weeks now. After Merle showed a face mask on the group Zoom call, she immediately received 15 requests. Sheila Osterer, executive director of AJA50+, delivered the masks personally.

The masks are tied around the top of your head and behind your neck.

“Wearing these masks when out for a walk, or in your apartment or condo building to get your exercise in the corridor, or on your weekly run for groceries, helps keep your moist droplets in, so you do not spread your germs,” said Merle, pointing out the masks “are not hospital grade.”

“The assembly line just keeps going,” she said, “for hours on end!”

Photo 1: Merle Haltrecht-Matte wears a mask she sewed.

Photo 2: Patsy Royer sewing masks.