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Do you sew? Help make face masks for hospital workers

Iwan Beijes/

If you have a sewing machine and you live in the Rochester area, you have a chance to help health care workers who are on the front lines of the battle against the coronavirus pandemic.

A local hospital has enlisted the help of Hickey Freeman to make some urgently needed face masks -- and the Rochester-based clothing manufacturer is now turning to the public for help.

Jeffery Diduch, vice president of technical design for the company, said Rochester General Hospital contacted him a few days ago to make a plan in case the hospital ran out of masks and surgical gowns. A hospital system spokesperson said the arrangement "is still in process," but said she couldn't offer any more details yet.

Health care workers need the masks to protect themselves from the coronavirus, and Diduch said the hospital told him they go through tens of thousands of them per day.

But the Hickey Freeman factory is shut down to maintain social distancing, so Diduch is asking members of the public who have sewing machines to help stitch the masks together.

"I will be recording video instructions on how to sew it so we can distribute those instructions on the internet," Diduch said. "Some of it, we may subdivide depending on the equipment. So, if you've just got a plain machine, maybe you can do the pleating on the side of a mask and then we'll gather those and then give it to somebody else who can do the binding and the tapes around the head."

Anyone who can help should email

Diduch said the hospital is also short on surgical gowns, but for now, masks are the priority.

"We're just trying to figure this out and make this work as we go," he said. "We're trying to move very, very quickly."

Beth Adams joined WXXI as host of Morning Edition in 2012 after a more than two-decade radio career. She was the longtime host of the WHAM Morning News in Rochester. Her career also took her from radio stations in Elmira, New York, to Miami, Florida.