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Mary Rudeen of Stillwater dropped off 22 masks at the Stillwater Fire Department on Saturday, April 25 as part of the state-wide Homemade Mask Drive. The masks were among the 200-plus she has sewed and distributed to date. (Gazette staff photo by Stuart Groskreutz)

Stillwater-area residents responded in a big way as part of a state-wide effort to provide face masks for workers in jobs with increased risks due to COVID-19.

More than 1,050 masks were dropped off at the Stillwater Fire Department April 25, with the majority arriving during the four-hour Homemade Mask Drive initiated by Minnesota Govornor Tim Walz.

“That’s an outstanding number,” Stillwater Fire Chief Stu Glaser said. “I don’t know how that compares to others, but we were very pleased with that. People were very generous and it was very kind of them to do that and offering their talents to make those masks.”

Maggie Hart of Oak Park Heights dropped off 22 masks she sewed with some leftover fabric.

“I am proud and pleased to do it,” Hart said. “The heroes are the ones wearing them, not the ones sewing them.”

Stillwater resident Mary Rudeen pulled into the fire station on her bike to drop off a few dozen masks. This was the latest batch from among the more than 200 she has made and distributed to date.

“I make them and keep giving them away,” Rudeen said.

“We collected some during the week, but the big push was on Saturday,” Glaser said. “We had a really good turnout and we’re really thankful for the people doing that. It will help our response community and nursing facilities that need this stuff. They’re making a difference and hopefully we can help stem the tide of COVID-19 and try to slow this stuff down.”

Stillwater Fire Department Captain Chad Jansen and Firefighter/Engineer Matt Richardson were on hand to assist with those dropping off masks.

Two hours into the drive, Jansen said there was a steady flow of donations.

“We emptied the box an hour ago and we’ve definitely had people coming in and dropping them off,” Jansen said.

“We had really no idea what the turnout with be, but Stillwater, we’re a pretty active community and when people ask for help our community definitely steps up and is willing to do that,” Glaser said. “It’s neat to live in a community like that.”

All 775 fire departments in Minnesota participated in the mask drive. Governor Tim Walz announced on Facebook that in total Minnesotan donated about 137,430 masks in the drive.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cloth masks have not been proven to prevent COVID-19 infection for the wearer, but wearing them can help prevent the mark wearer from infecting others. This is especially important because many of those infected might not necessarily show any symptoms.

The Washington County Emergency Management and Public Health departments will distribute the masks collected to area care facilities in need of the face coverings.

“They have an idea what specific agencies need and how many,” Glaser said. “They will get those distributed throughout Stillwater and the county.

“I just think it’s outstanding that our community and surrounding area, just that we had this need and they joined together and are working together to try and calm this thing down and stop the progression. Again, our community stepped up to the call and did a great job. We’re very pleased and thank them a lot for their time and talent.”

Contact Stuart Groskreutz at stuart.groskreutz@ecm-inc.com

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