Scouts break out the needle and thread to make face coverings during pandemic

When Washington state’s governor issued a lockdown, 17-year-old Rafferty Escame soon realized the planned workday for his Eagle Scout project wouldn’t abide by social distancing requirements. The Life Scout of Troop 330 in Federal Way, Wash., and his family watched the news about the local response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the panicked purchasing of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and other supplies. Then, there were reports of personal protective equipment shortages.

Rafferty had an idea.

He decided to rededicate his project to making reusable cotton face covers that he could hand out to the public. Hopefully, he thought, that would cut down on any shortages of medical-grade equipment. He went to fabric stores for supplies, creating kits to deliver to volunteers, so they could help him make more. He created a tutorial on how to sew them:

As Rafferty and his team of volunteers finished making hundreds of coverings, he began to look for ways to distribute them. Local bus drivers didn’t have any — 100 donated to them. Two nursing homes asked for face covers for staff and residents — 350 delivered to them. A pilot and her flight crew — another 50. Medical offices — another 100. The rest were handed out in front of a Safeway supermarket. All in all, Rafferty distributed more than 1,350 face covers to his community.

Other Scouts across the country have made similar efforts to protect people.

Learning to sew

In Texas City, Texas, 17-year-old Austin Montalbano, an Eagle Scout with Troop 246, thought of making face covers after seeing social media posts from healthcare workers who needed the equipment. Last November, Austin broke his leg during a varsity football game.

“I was able to see firsthand what nurses and doctors go through and do for us on a daily basis,” he says. “It gave me a new appreciation for them, and when I saw all the media coverage of them asking for help, I just wanted to do what I could.”

Austin asked his mother Pamela for help sewing cloth coverings, using scrap quilt squares. She made the first few, then Austin wanted to take over.

“I had never used a sewing machine before this,” Austin says. “I had learned skills in Scouting for quick fixes with needle and threads, and, of course, knots, but never sewing.”

Together, Austin and his mom worked on covers for weeks, creating more than 1,000 to donate to dental offices, police stations and hospitals. To make one, the whole process of cutting material, sewing it together and adding elastic took about 15 minutes. Because of the response (which included a shoutout from the Texas governor) he’s still making and donating face covers.

Around the country

Kai Gottschalk is using a 3D printer along with fellow Scouts of Troop 941 of Pleasanton, Calif., to make more than 4,000 face shields for local hospitals.

Also using a 3D printer that he bought, Life Scout Jordyn Fender with Troop 700 in Grapevine, Texas, had created more than 400 mask straps for area hospitals. In Chesapeake, Va., Nathan Babcock used a 3D printer to make straps to relieve the tension around the ears caused by masks, which he donated to a local hospital. They both got the idea after seeing a story about Canadian Scout Quinn Roney who made the devices, often called “ear savers.”

Life Scout Ryker Horton of Troop 365 in Round Rock, Texas, dedicated his Eagle Scout project to making and donating reusable face covers to a pediatric doctor’s office and assisted living facility.

Jay Tuttle, a Cub Scout with Pack 81 of Bellefontaine, Ohio, has made more than 750 face covers to donate to local businesses and a fire department.

For more information about homemade face coverings, how to use them and how they can help fight the spread of COVID-19, visit this page on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention site. And to see how to transform your neckerchief into a face covering, watch this video. Boys’ Life also has tutorials on making coverings using shirts and bandanas.

About Michael Freeman 446 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is an associate editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines.