Editor's Note: A recent post on Dr. Grunch's Facebook stated that she is all out of materials.
Betsy Grunch, a neurosurgeon with the Longstreet Clinic in Gainesville, held low expectations when she and her aunt went to her grandmother’s long-closed fabric store on Old Cornelia Highway last week to look for elastic to make medical face masks.
Instead she found spools with around 15,000 yards of elastic — enough to make more than 37,000 masks.
“I was honestly just expecting to find maybe a little bit to help make some masks for our department and that’s really what I was going for,” said Grunch. “When we found that many spools we were just like ‘Oh my gosh…this is crazy!”.
Grunch said staff at the Longstreet Clinic were growing concerned over their supply of masks because of new rules from Center for Disease Control requiring all medical personnel to wear them at work. Grunch looked at a local fabric store for supplies but found that they were in low supply.
Grunch had a conversation with her aunt about the old store, which had been closed and boarded up for nearly 30 years. Their curiosity led to the trip to search for leftover material.
“We felt like there was probably something in there, so we thought that we’d just have a peek,” said Grunch. “Granted some of it was musty and definitely had an outer coating of dirt on there, but these were huge spools of like 800 yards so once we reeled off the first 25 yards or so there was essentially brand-new elastic underneath.”
In addition to the elastic, Grunch and her aunt found fabric, needles and thread stored among the old inventory.
Grunch took the materials with her to the clinic and posted on Facebook inviting anyone who could sew to come and pick up the supplies to make masks.
Her initial offer asked for volunteers to make masks for staff at the clinic and Northeast Georgia Medical Center. After that need was met, she opened the offer up for volunteers to use the materials to make masks for members of the community, as well.
“What better way to help people in our community stay safe then to give folks supplies to help protect themselves in a time where you really can’t find [the supplies],” said Grunch. “This is stuff that really had no monetary value before this all happened, so why take advantage of that type of thing now when everybody needs it.”
Grunch said she has seen an overwhelmingly positive response to her offer with nearly seventy people coming in to take supplies and sew masks. She said nearly sixty percent of the elastic she had has been used, but there’s still plenty left.
Grunch is still offering the supplies while they last. More information about where to get them can be found on her public Facebook page.