NESPELEM – Colville tribal member Deborah Bailey quietly sits at one of the open tables at the Nespelem Senior Meal Site.
Bailey is in the early stages of making a facemask.
She’s just finished tracing a design into the fabric and is now cutting out that design from the fabric.
Soon the cut out pieces will be sewn together, and once finished, the masks will be distributed out to tribal elders in all four districts of the Reservation.
Over 100 or so have already been given out to elders in the Nespelem community with more being given out to elders in Omak and Inchelium in the coming days.
“We’ve been working on them all weekend and all last week,” said Bailey. “It makes me feel good helping out our elders.”
Bailey is one of seven women, alongside Josie Dick, Etta Grunlose, Elena Hermon, Freida Batten (Butterfly), Desiree LaPlante Hertenstein and Alana Picard, that have been working to make masks for the last week and a half at the Nespelem Meal Site.
Additional work is being done in Keller and Inchelium.
“It was a trial and error on our first couple masks,” said Grunlose, an employee of the Tribes Area Agency on Aging program. “We just went off a do-it-yourself on Pinterest, and printed off the pattern.”
There were a few bumps in the road along the way but things are starting to get smoother.
“The hardest part of these masks is the elastic,” said Grunlose. “There was no elastic anywhere. At that point and I was praying, we gotta find some way to finish these masks.”
Last week, Grunlose went back to her home, trying to find anything she could use for elastic.
“At the bottom of my stack at home, there was this material, it looked like fake buckskin,” said Grunlose. “I brought that to the Meal site and told Josie here, try this and see if it works. We got our first mask and the rest is history.”
Without the support from the community, a lot of this wouldn’t have been possible.
“Everybody is donating material,” Grunlose said. “We’ve received a lot of donations and if we didn’t receive donations and volunteer work, we wouldn’t have made 100 for Nespelem.
AAoA program was able to lend a hand in a time of need as a bulk of the material came from their program.
“We had material from one of our grants to make wing dresses and ribbon shirts,” said Grunlose. “We had the material and thread and everything to do that, so we picked up our material and brought it to Nespelem Senior meal site,”
From there, the Nespelem Meal site has been serving as the hub for facemask production.
“We ended up cutting for Inchelium and for Omak,” said Grunlose.
To try and ease some of the work for Grunlose, Bailey and others at the Nespelem production site, the cuttings for Inchelium were sent to tribal elder Cheryl Pakootas.
“She’s working on all of their elders’ facemasks,” said Grunlose who had expressed that for the most part, the elders of Keller had facemasks as well.
“We’re trying to work on Omak’s and I have a running list too,” Grunlose said. “We’re trying to reach out to everyone that we can that didn’t get a mask and isn’t on our list.”
Colville member Rena Totus donated 20 masks.
Any elders who haven’t got a face mask who needs one are encouraged to call the Nespelem Meal Site at (509)-634-2895 or Colville Tribal EOC at 509-634-7350.