Extension coordinates effort to provide 1,000 face coverings to La Grande schools

LA GRANDE, Ore. – Four months ago, most of us couldn’t have imagined how our work life would be altered by the COVID-19 pandemic. Especially Robin Maille.

Maille wears several hats as an assistant professor of practice in the Oregon State University Extension Service Family and Community Health Program. She oversees nutrition education in Union and Baker counties, the Master Gardener program in Union County, and she’s involved with Coast to Forest, a new project that promotes mental health in rural Oregon.

Recently, she was asked to put on another hat. She’s coordinating an effort to provide 1,000 face coverings for the La Grande School District. These aren’t commercially manufactured face coverings. They are being hand-sewn by 10 to 15 volunteers, many of whom are affiliated with the school district.

Maille represents Extension on the Union County Emergency Preparedness Coalition, which is comprised of representatives from various agencies. At the beginning of the pandemic the Union County  Incident Management Team started fielding requests for face coverings.

The team tapped Maille to fulfill those requests, which started out as a “few here and a few there,” she said.

“Some businesses were offering free face coverings so I grabbed a few of those and I also figured out who was selling them in town,” she said. “I got a sense of who was making them.”

A number of individuals have been making masks for the local hospital as well as vulnerable populations in the area since Gov. Brown’s “Stay Home, Save Lives” order. Then La Grande School District’s request came in: 1,500. It was modified to 1,000.

Maille was in charge of getting them.

Maille, who is vice chair of the La Grande School Board, keeps track of the number of face coverings that are being made for the district. She’s also adding to that number. She has a sewing machine, and on a recent vacation she bought fabric and other materials, some of which are in short supply locally.

“I figured if I was coordinating this group I should figure out how to make a mask,” she said.

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