Volunteers step up to help protect Fort McCoy families by making masks

A Fort McCoy, Wis., volunteer shows some of the masks donated to Army Community Service for distribution to Fort McCoy employees and volunteers. (Contributed photo)
May 06, 2020

When Fort McCoy Army Community Service (ACS) put out a call for help, a number of volunteers answered and started sewing cloth face masks to help protect Fort McCoy workers and family members during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

As of May 1, 136 completed masks have been collected by Army Volunteer Corps Coordinator Lorie Retzlaff. Twenty-two volunteers, including 19 volunteers who are new to the program and six families, are making masks.

“The calls keep coming in, which we are grateful for,” Retzlaff said May 1. “I have three new people that I need to get back to — they just called today.”

The masks are made of fabric and tie behind the head with string or ribbon. ACS provides the material to volunteers, and both drop-offs and pickups are made via social distancing. ACS also provides two different patterns to volunteers: one that can hold a filter and a simpler design that does not.

“We want to give our volunteers the two options as some have greater sewing skills and are not intimidated by making pleats,” Retzlaff said. That way we also optimize the number of masks being made.”

Retzlaff said ACS also has several sewing machines, normally used for craft workshops and family projects, that can be loaned to volunteers who do not have their own.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies), especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

Masks should fit snugly but comfortably against the side of the face, be secured with ties or ear loops, include multiple layers of fabric, allow for breathing without restriction, and be able to be laundered and machine dried without damage or change to shape. Read more at

ACS is giving the masks to the Installation Safety Office, which will distribute them to Fort McCoy essential personnel. Retzlaff said she hopes to eventually get enough masks to be able to distribute them to Fort McCoy families, too.

“The best part about this project is seeing not only individuals stepping up to help our community but whole families, as well,” Retzlaff said. “It’s a wonderful way to make a positive contribution and create positive family memories during this time when our whole world is different.”

Fort McCoy is still in need of volunteers to sew masks. For more information about volunteering, call 608-388-6507 and leave a message or email [email protected]