We have to say this in all seriousness: Those members of the Stanleytown Amazing Grace Baptist Church are sewing machines.
In case you missed the report from earlier in the week, members of that church very early were inspired to begin to produce protective masks that have been in such great need across the nation in providing self-protection against the spread of the coronavirus and COVID-19.
These church members began in March – inspired by the experience during Hurricane Katrina by member (and Patrick Henry Community College President) Angeline Godwin – to set up an assembly line that produces masks and adheres to the social isolation policies that are so necessary.
They bring in fabric by the reams, use a crew to cut and another to sew and a distribution system that mails masks by the hundreds.
And let’s not mask the numbers: At last report, their output was surpassing 6,300 masks distributed across parts of 12 states. They are receiving thank you notes from far-flung medical workers who feel blessed.
Such efforts make us puff up our chests in community pride, and for all the anxiety and unsettledness that are the symptoms for everyone during this pandemic, there is great joy in watching as so many donate their time, their money and their ingenuity to helping us endure and to move forward.
These efforts are great and small but equally valuable, and they are so frequent and heartfelt that it is impossible to list them all, as much as each deserves a spotlight bow.
Like the report by Bill Wyatt in Friday’s Martinsville Bulletin described how residents had reached out to help first responders who can’t isolate at home in self-protection but who in fact must mask-up and glove-up daily and go into the way of a harm they can’t see or detect. This danger isn’t fire or flood but the breaths and touches that all first responders must endure in fulfilling their calling.
Some of the efforts to help during this crisis are grand and get deservedly large headlines, such as the grants from The Harvest Foundation and the coordination from the United Way and Community Storehouse and others to provide childcare and food at home for so many left in a bind because of the closing of the schools.
And the school systems themselves deserve accolades. Administrations in Martinsville and Henry and Patrick counties are finding innovative ways to both educate and celebrate students who are scattered and hidden from the daily limelight that usually elevates them.
But school leaders also are dedicating themselves to ministering to students who don’t have enough to eat, preparing, distributing and delivering meals – Martinsville City Public Schools employees are continuing to drive house to house – to sustain those students and allow them the nourishment of body they need to nourish their minds.
In fact, these efforts may be lessons unto themselves. Students may be learning how important it is to serve others, to see a greater good, to adjust from self-indulgence to a grace-giving approach. We can only guess that many young eyes have been opened and hope that good deeds resonate.
These sentences could run on, with groups manufacturing masks and face guards and other elements of personal protective equipment — you’ve read about PHCC and New College Institute and Eastman Corporation and others very involved in that – and many more sewing efforts like in Stanleytown.
Children are providing uplifting messages for workers and virus-isolated patients in our hospitals, where smiles and encouragement in any forms are blessings.
And with that we add a final sentence about the spiritual leadership. You can argue whether churches should be allowed to meet during the isolation period, but the judgments of our ministers and church leaders have proven to serve in their principle role: to show love for one another. We commend them on finding new ways to reach their members – maybe even more members than usually darken doors on Sundays and holidays? – and to deliver messages of hope and inspiration and encouragement that we all need to hear.
Yes, these times are bad, sad, difficult, frustrating and scary, but, my, aren’t they bringing out a lot of good?