The first round of locally produced medical masks have been delivered to the Mad River Valley Ambulance Service (MRVAS) and members of local volunteer fire departments.

Annemarie Furey of Product Think Tank in Waitsfield left the masks in a box outside her shop where the masks are in production. They were picked up by Warren firefighter Tom Shive.

The handoff took place this afternoon, Friday, March 27, while representatives of Mad River Distillers were giving away 4 ounce bottles of hand sanitizer that they produced by double distilling alcohol.

Furey came up with the idea of converting her clothing store to make medical masks last Friday, March 20.  She reached out for donated fabric (100 percent woven cotton, men’s dress shirts are ideal) that had been washed and bleached and received enough to start cutting and pleating with the help of Kris Chamberlain of Warren.

Her goal is to make 900 to be distributed locally to EMS and fire volunteers as well as others. Her work has inspired others in The Valley to volunteer as well and now the Mad River Valley Emergency Management Team is working to coordinate those volunteers, including collecting the masks. Freddie Graves, Fayston, has volunteered to be the point of contact for people making masks or needing information. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Graves will also be accepting donations of fabric for those who want to make masks.

“What the emergency team wants to do is support all the wonderful people who are wearing them and create a campaign where we get the community at large wearing them,” said Jess Tompkins, an RN who is the medical and volunteer coordinator for the emergency team.

Furey is working from instructions given out by Deaconess Hospital. (Click here:

Furey cautions folks making masks to make sure to use the right fabric. T-shirt material, she said, is generally not protective enough, although some professional or construction grade shirts (Carhartt) might be sturdy enough.

Both Furey and Tompkins acknowledge that the washable, reusable masks are not 100 percent effective, but Tompkins said, “They are very effective.”

“We know the virus is spread by droplets. Just wearing a mask can keep droplets out of your mouth. All of us wearing masks will be very pro-social behavior, it’s a way of protecting your neighbors and yourself,” Tompkins said.

When Furey has provided masks to emergency responders, she’ll be reaching out to stores that are open as well as postal workers to donate masks. The 3/8 inch and ¼ inch elastic that was to have been delivered on March 26 was delayed and Furey found another source today, which, in addition to elastic donated by community members, allowed her to finish the first batch of masks. The masks include wire across the top to form to peoples’ noses for a tighter fit and she has volunteers cutting those wires for her as well.

Furey can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and she also reminded the community that the Vermont Department of Health wants people to know that masks don’t make people 100 percent safe and that social distancing is still critical.