SAF volunteer sews face masks to assist VA hospital

By Eilene E. Guy, American Red Cross

April 10, 2020- Jennifer Blatnik is delighted to be using her quilt-making skills to fill a vital need in the face of COVID-19.

Working through the Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) program of the American Red Cross, Jennifer is turning out dozens of face masks for use at the Louis Stokes VA Medical Center in Cleveland.

In her professional life, Jennifer actually works at the VA center: She talks with geriatric patients who are admitted through the emergency room and their families to find out what other services – beyond immediate medical care – they need to live successfully at home.

Jennifer

Jennifer Blatnik

“I love it,” she says of her job, so the veteran of 20 years in the Navy decided to get her degree in social work. That led her to the SAF, where she can fulfill her course requirement for hands-on social work experience.

“When I saw something about making masks, I thought, ‘I could totally whip out a whole bunch of those’.”

Jennifer turns out close-fitting “bird beak” style masks, which have space for an extra filter layer made of furnace vent material.

So far, the full-time worker, full-time student and full-time mom has churned out more than four dozen of the colorful – but vital – face coverings.

Meanwhile, Jeanette Petrick is adding homemade face masks to her Red Cross volunteer portfolio. Normally, she mans the SAF coffee and cookies cart every Friday at the VA center.

“I’m in the process of making 200 masks for whoever can use them at the VA,” she said. “As part of the SAF, we wanted to help, as so many are, during this health crisis.”

Facemasks

Just this week Jennifer recognized one of her creations on a co-worker. “That’s one of my masks!” she thought. “It was really cool,” to know she could put her hobby to serious purpose.

Meanwhile, her experience with the Red Cross has given her a new perspective.

“It makes me appreciate everyone who has ever volunteered,” she said. “It’s all for the greater good.”

For more information about Red Cross volunteer activities to support our men and women in uniform and our veterans, contact Jessica Tischler, Regional Director, Service to Armed Forces & International Services at Jessica.tischler@redcross.org or 216-496-2998, or Regional SAF Volunteer Lead Sharon Nicastro at Sharon.nicastro@redcross.org or 216-469-0805.

The American Red Cross prevents and alleviates human suffering in the face of emergencies by mobilizing the power of volunteers and the generosity of donors

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