Camp Humphreys stitch together for great cause

Kelly Schmidt, an active duty spouse, cuts out a template to put together masks during the coronavirus outbreak. Volunteers flocked to the Arts and Crafts Center at Camp Humpherys, South Korea, April 7, 2020. These masks are more important today because the Department of Defense provided guidance requiring anyone on DOD property to wear a mask if six feet of social distance cannot be maintained. (U.S. Army Photo by Pfc. Jillian Hix, 20th Public Affairs Detachment)
April 09, 2020

In times of uncertainty, author Margaret Wheatley points out that “there is no power for change greater than a community discovering what it cares about.”

As a community, Camp Humphreys Soldiers, family members and civilians are working tirelessly to prevent and kill the COVID-19 virus, and sewing face masks to protect the force is no exception.

A recent directive from Defense Secretary Mark Esper stated that all individuals on Department of Defense property, installations and facilities will need to wear cloth face coverings “when they cannot maintain 6 feet of social distance in public areas or work centers.”

This new guidance heighten a need for masks, which have been in high demand since the outbreak of the virus, early this year. And, with this new directive, Eighth Army Deputy Commanding General Maj. Gen. Patrick Donahoe and Humphreys Garrison Commander Col. Mike Tremblay, quickly collaborated and came up with an idea not only to boost the morale of the community, but also to support the necessities of the new order.

After careful consideration, their ideas were discussed with Kelly Schmidt, an Eighth Army spouse, who soon spearheaded a new operation called “Sew-Essential.” She quickly rallied volunteers to help make approximately thirty thousand “masks” for the community.

“I know there is a large network of talented people here at Camp Humphreys,” said Schmidt. “When I put out the call for volunteers, I knew that our community would rise to the challenge and bring the Sew-Essential mask project to life.”

The USAG Humphreys Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation (FMWR) also stepped in and supported the project by providing the Arts and Crafts Center facility and materials, such as sewing machines, fabric, elastic, and irons to get the project up and running.

Even a local tailor shop, located just outside of the gate, provided their sewing expertise and donated masks to help support the cause.

“Without the support of these agencies, this would not have come together as quickly as it did,” said Schmidt.

With only a day to plan and execute, the project was operational April 7. The volunteers arrived, some with their own personal sewing machines and tools, while others who had no sewing skills were put to work cutting and ironing fabric. An assembly line was created within hours.

“The goal to get a mask to all members of our community is a worthwhile effort,” said Kelsey Walsh, a 501st Military Intelligence Brigade spouse. “It is nice to be making a difference during such an unpredictable time.”

Army Community Services Volunteer Corps Coordinator Lindsay Hermann, also jumped in to assist with sign-up sheets and copies of the templates required to produce the masks for the volunteers.

“I’m excited to be here to help,” she said. “Volunteers are encouraged to log their hours in the Volunteer Management Information System portal of the Army OneSource webpage. People here are making a difference to the community and it’s important they get credit for their time.”

Carmen Frank, an Eighth Army spouse, is also grateful for the opportunity to participate to support the community.

“It is great to be a part of something that benefits all the members of our Humphreys community,” she said, as she cut strips of elastic. “Making these masks demonstrates how committed we are in killing the virus. We want all of our community members to stay healthy and now is the time to make that final push to smash it.”