Employees, inmates learning new skill: making masks
It’s truly a collective effort involving lots of people learning a new craft – from Volusia County employees at the DeLand administration center, to librarians, Ocean Center staff and even inmates at the Volusia County Correctional Facility.
Their new skill set: making masks. It’s all part of ongoing efforts to protect the health of county employees so they can remain on the job serving the public. And the masks are not only protection, but they’re a blessing as much for those who’re making them as it is for the recipients.
“It’s wonderful to see how our employees are working to support each other and our community during this time,” said Jaime Edmondson, diversity & inclusion specialist in the county’s human resources division and one of the organizers of the mask-making initiative. “It’s such important, life-saving work.”
Two Volusia County divisions, community services and human resources, teamed up to launch the county employee program about a week ago -- dubbed Volusia CARES. UF/IFAS Volusia County Extension 4-H was an integral partner in getting the program off the ground, providing all of the sewing machines, cotton material, thread and other necessary supplies along with the training on how to create a mask from scratch. The training rooms on the 1st floor of the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Center in DeLand have been turned into a temporary sewing room, with as many as 60 employees taking one-hour rotating shifts at a time throughout the workday. Sewing rooms also have been set up in library services and the Ocean Center as well as part of the program. So far, they’re churning out approximately 75-100 masks a day. Already, more than 200 have been distributed to county employees.
“Our public employees consider themselves servants to the public, and they’re really resilient and nimble,” Community Services Director Dona Butler said in explaining the program at a recent County Council meeting.
And at the Volusia County Correctional Facility in Daytona Beach, about a dozen inmates under the supervision of correctional staff are also making masks five days a week. The jail initially purchased materials for cotton masks. The inmates have already made more than 600 masks, and 150 of them were recently distributed to the county’s public works division. But more recently, Halifax Health has furnished surgical drapes. The hope is that the end result will be a mask that’s similar in quality to an N95 version.
For the inmates, the mask-making is redemptive and time well spent, according to Corrections Director Mark Flowers.
“The Volusia County Division of Corrections is a great resource for Volusia County,” said Flowers. “We continue to look for ways for the inmates to give back to society and prove that they’re not bad people, but rather people who just made bad choices and deserve a second chance.”