Hometown Heroes: Gail Byrnes and Anne Boedecker    

COURTESY PHOTO. Gail Byrnes and Anne Boedecker, left, and Gail Byrnes, both of Rowley, have spent several hours each day sewing face masks for those looking to protect themselves and others from the coronavirus.

ROWLEY – Since March 22, Gail Byrnes and Anne Boedecker of Rowley have spent several hours each day sewing face masks for those looking to protect themselves and others from the coronavirus.

In all, the two longtime friends who got to know each other through the area art scene, have sewn more than 1,300 face masks. Of those masks, 400 were donated to hospice and longterm care provider Care Dimensions, which in turn gave them to visitors at the Kaplan Family Hospice House. They’ve also sold hundreds of masks at $10 each with proceeds going to Care Dimensions and to purchase more supplies. Healthcare providers are given masks for free.

It was around March 22 when Byrnes, an acupuncturist, and Boedecker, a psychotherapist, saw their businesses close as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m an acupuncturist. I guess I can’t stay away from needles,” Byrnes said.

Boedecker said the idea came from when she was surfing the internet and spotted a website that said there was an urgent need for face coverings. That need has only increased since Massachusetts Gov Charlie Baker ordered that all persons wear a face covering outside if they cannot maintain social distancing.

“I first thought, jeez, we should try to make something,” Boedecker said.

Boedecker found a mask pattern used by a Boston-area hospital and the two began sewing masks for family and friends. That soon expanded to the point where they worked for most of the day starting in the morning and then ending around dinnertime, with a lunch break thrown in.

Using a sewing machine, the double-layer cotton masks take an average of 10 minutes to make. They can be made as quickly as six minutes.

“But I’m pretty fast,” Byrnes said. “I’m speedy.”

Boedecker said making masks, especially when they were unable to work at their normal professions, gave them a sense of purpose.

“I felt this calling to provide masks,” Boedecker said.

Byrnes put it even more simply: “I just really like to help people."

Hometown Heroes is published by The Daily News online every Tuesday. If you'd like to nominate someone helping their community, send an email to editor Richard Lodge at rlodge@newburyportnews.com with some details. 

Recommended for you