To help with the community need of getting protective face masks into the hands of individuals, Westview Community Church partnered with the Riley County Emergency Operations center to carryout “Masking Manhattan.”
The operation started this week and collection of homemade masks is underway.
Brian Smith, lead pastor of the church, said the group is in reception mode now, trying to get as many donated masks as they can before beginning distribution next week.
“The sooner we get more masks in, the sooner we can really help the community,” Smith said.
With the use of these cloth masks, the N95 masks can go to the medical community, Smith said. He noted that the cloth masks are effective in keeping someone from spreading the virus.
“Now there’s evidence that you can potentially shed the virus without even having symptoms,” Smith said. “The main design of the mask is actually to protect the public from you.”
While the church building has been closed, it will be open for collection and distribution of the masks. Smith said the group is hoping to have enough masks collected to begin distributing on Monday.
Anyone can donate a homemade mask to the church, located at 615 Gillespie Dr. Smith said donors should use the west entrance and social distancing guidelines will be followed.
Smith said they hope to distribute the masks over the next few weeks, or until the need is over. A group of volunteers will disinfect the masks before they are distributed. Smith encourages those who take them to wash their mask before use as well.
“We’ve got a number of requests already from essential services that provide critical services for the community that aren’t necessarily medical,” Smith said.
Smith added this is not the first time the church has helped in a crisis.
“Our church has some history of working in crisis mode,” Smith said. “We were actually a sheltering location during the [Labor Day] flood.”
As the virus is expected to peak in the next couple of weeks, Smith said mask use is very important at this time.
“With that, and now that we’re starting to see community spread in Manhattan, I think it’s definitely very impactful now to really encourage mask use if you have to go out in public and you can’t properly social distance,” Smith said.
Smith has already had community members, including elderly people, come to the church looking for masks. He said he had to tell them at the time that they were just collecting, although he hated to.
“You could definitely see a little bit of the fear and the concern and the hope to get that kind of personal protective equipment,” Smith said.
Collection hours are Friday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday 9 a.m. to noon. Smith said he is hoping to donate masks next week on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. The church will be accepting donations of masks during these times as well.
More information can be found on their Facebook page.