by JANA WILSON
When Kelly Clark closed her physical therapy practice as the pandemic escalated, she decided to spend her time making fabric masks for friends and family.
One day in mid-March, as Clark was browsing at a local fabric store, she overheard a woman talking about making her own fabric masks. They struck up a conversation and hit it off. That was the beginning of the partnership between Clark and Nola Hartman that soon became the Bloomington Fabric Mask Drive (BFMD).
After joining forces as co-founders, Hartman and Clark were instrumental in distributing more than 21,000 masks to area nonprofit organizations, businesses, government employees, and individuals.
“Nola and I working together just fell into place,” Clark says. “We have complementary strengths. She knows sewing inside and out. I’m a former grant writer and I have communication and office skills.”
Hartman says the Bloomington Quilters Guild was crucial to the process, as many of its members stepped up right away to help sew masks. “If it hadn’t been for them, I don’t think we would have ever gotten so big,” she adds.
Both Hartman and Clark did extensive research to determine what type of mask they wanted to offer. To keep it simple, they created three styles: one with a lining, one without a lining, and one for children.
Word got out quickly and groups like nursing homes and home health care agencies began requesting the masks. “It was like a holy cause for me to see that health care workers didn’t have masks,” Clark says.
The mask-making effort also caught the attention of City of Bloomington officials, and BFMD was offered space at the Allison Jukebox and Banneker community centers where volunteers cut pieces of fabric to sew, sorted newly sewn masks, and made phone calls to let people know that their masks were ready for pickup.
On June 20—almost three months after beginning their mask-making drive—Clark and Hartman announced they would stop taking orders. But necessity prompted a reboot five weeks later and the drive began again, this time in partnership with the Area 10 Agency on Aging.
Both are happy with their effort to get the word out about masks. “I still believe that wearing a fabric mask is the closest thing we have for a vaccine for COVID-19,” Clark says.