Synco turns talents to making masks

Published 7:03 pm Monday, March 30, 2020

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For Barbara Synco, hoarding is paying off.

“And, in more ways than one,” Synco said, laughing. “I have the opportunity to use much of the material that I have ‘hoarded’ to sew homemade cloth masks and do something to benefit others during the coronavirus pandemic.”

To date, Synco has made about 150 cloth masks that she has donated to a Birmingham hospital, a clinical lab in Spanish Fort and to the Montgomery Cancer Center.

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Synco said homemade cloth masks aren’t ideal, but given the shortage of medical-grade protective masks, they may be the best option for some people.

“I don’t want a doctor taking out my appendix wearing a homemade mask but, then, I don’t want to expose myself to the risks that we are facing today,” she said.

Synco worked in the health-care field for 38 years, 25 years as the head of the pharmacy department at the hospital in Troy and 13 years at the Montgomery Cancer Center.

So, she understands the need for and the importance of face masks in preventing the spread of diseases.

“Right now, with the COVID-19, the need for face masks is great, one million or more,” she said.

When supply cannot meet demand, the homemade cloth masks help fill a need.

“I feel guilty that I’m not in health care anymore so making the cloth masks is something I can do to contribute,” she said. “Although, the homemade masks are not medical grade, they meet a need.

“At the Montgomery Cancer Center, the masks are available to all nurses, those in the pharmacy and lab people. Others who could benefit from wearing the homemade cloth masks are those in essential businesses including grocery stores, pharmacies, gas stations and restaurants that are providing curbside service. Any workers who are coming in contact with the public.”

Synco said there are others in the area who are making the cloth masks. Speaking for herself, making the masks does take village.

“The masks that I am making are pocket masks and each one takes two layers of fabric and a Swiffer dry sheet. I also insert pipe cleaners to mold the mask to the face,” she said. “And, elastic. It takes a lot of elastic and elastic is not easy to find. I have friends that are robbing elastic from their mother’s and grandmother’s sewing boxes. Elastic is a limiting factor. So, I was excited when a friend brought me about 75 yards.”

The masks are not difficult to make; they are just time consuming.

“At first, it was taking about 30 minutes to make one mask,” Synco said. “Now, I can make a mask in about 20 to 25 minutes.

For Barbara Synco, making cloth face masks is something that she can do to support those who are on the front lines in the fight against the coronavirus.

“When I go to meet my Maker, I don’t want him to say,” Barbara you could have done more,” she said.

“I want to do what I can and all I can.”