About six weeks ago, Waldo County Corrections Officer Carlene Thornton had an idea. With a limited supply of personal protective equipment available, including consumer masks, she approached Unified Corrections Administrator Ray Porter about making cloth face coverings and distributing them throughout the county.

In a May 15 conversation with The Republican Journal, Porter said, "She came in and said 'We need to do something.'" She then asked him if he would mind her starting a project to make masks.

The residents of the Maine Coastal Regional Reentry Center, in collaboration with Thornton, have produced and distributed to date 1,228 cloth face masks, and orders are still coming in.

"I see a flurry of people coming in and picking up orders," Porter said.

A Facebook post shows Thornton behind the sewing machine, while residents work to cut out masks using templates on a table filled with several different fabrics and ribbons.

Porter said this has been a huge undertaking with a residential population that is currently down to 10 individuals from a capacity of 32.

"It's been good for them," Porter said. "They haven't been able to go anywhere lately, and with this effort they are contributing and feel good about it. … Carly has done a great job."

The cloth face coverings have been distributed to the Waldo County Communications Center, Emergency Management Agency, the bus garage, Judicial Center, health care facilities, local store clerks and the many food pantries throughout the county.

Porter said everyone has been extremely appreciative of residents' efforts.

"That's the best part," he said, "when you see their face," or, actually, "when you see their eyes smiling."

filed under: