Vanguard High School students and residents from Ocala’s Coventry subdivision combine forces to help during the coronavirus pandemic.

As the COVID-19 virus began to spread throughout the country, Mae Demming felt called to action. The inspiration to help became a family affair when Demming’s 17-year old granddaughter, Kylie DiPrimo, combined efforts — and connections — to form a team of mask makers.


Demming, a retired UF Health Shands Hospital nurse and a mom to two local nurses, took a chance and reached out to members of her subdivision via a Facebook page devoted to the homeowners’ group. She asked if anyone would be willing to make masks to help those most at risk: healthcare and other workers on the frontline, battling the realities of the virus.


Fifteen members of the Coventry Subdivision group quickly replied to Demming’s post.


“I needed to do something to help. I know what it’s like to be at the bedside and to not have what you need to take care of your patients, or even a step further, to not have what you need to take care of yourself and your family,” Demming said.


“Our goal originally was to help medical personnel, but we began to realize that there are others who are vulnerable in the community, and beyond,” she said.


DiPrimo, a junior at Vanguard High School, took a sewing class through school and thought she could help, too. She looked to her fellow IB students for help.


“Some of them had never sewn before. I’m very impressed and proud of everyone that is helping out,” DiPrimo.


“As students, whenever we’re not working on school, we can sit down in a quiet place and just try to help others. I had a girl that’s in our group come to me who has had a rough time and she said this is her therapy.”


The group consists of 29 volunteers, and some have never met face-to-face. The team has maintained social distancing guidelines by holding meetings through Zoom and by creating masks in stages. Even those without sewing experience have helped by cutting and washing fabrics, cutting strings and bagging the completed masks.


Maintaining social distancing while learning and teaching sewing skills for an item that needs to be made according to CDC guidelines is no easy feat. Supplies are not always easy to come by. When there was an increase in demand for elastic, the group had to modify the mask construction to include rubber bands.


A special note has been added to each of the 800 masks that have been delivered to medical personnel, grocery employees and even to a recipient in Alaska.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there have been cases reported in all 50 states. The CDC recommends wearing a cloth mask to protect others in case you are unknowingly carrying the virus.


The CDC advises that a cloth mask will suffice for non-first responders and that surgical or N95 respiratory devices “are considered critical supplies that should be reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders.”


Also, even with face coverings, social distancing is an essential step in keeping safe, the center reports.


Last week, Demming and DiPrimo also delivered $600 worth of food to Interfaith Emergency Services. The food was purchased with donations the duo received for the masks, which are no-cost to the most vulnerable members of the community.


“Kylie and I were looking at each other the other day and said, ‘How did this get so big?’ This has been a neat project, it has taught the kids a lot,” Demming said.


“It’s teaching them that they’re not just victims, that you can do something to help the situation. I’m really proud of this group.”


DiPrimo is hoping to continue with community-service based activities.


“After all of this is over, it would still be nice to help the community. People will still be in need after the virus is gone with as big of an impact this is having on our economy. So, we may not be making masks, but we’re still going to reach out and help those that need help.”


To make a donation, contact Mae Demming at 843-7245.


For more information on cloth face coverings, visit https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/diy-cloth-face-coverings.html