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The Dearborn County Mask Coalition Inc. Are, from left, Ken Maddin, Susie Martin, Claudia Miller, Andrea Ewan and Kevin Wang. Submitted Photo

Manchester’s Martin saw the need

Susie Martin didn’t like what she was seeing on the Internet about the COVID-19 pandemic.

A nurse practitioner, who lives in Manchester Township, she saw very little on local social media about the spreading virus. She was “pretty well verse” on coronavirus because she had been following it since February.

“I was so disgruntled, basically, with the information that I was seeing online and, like, there was nothing I mean, people were just crazy,” Martin said. “So I just decided I’m going to start this page on Facebook.”

She started Dearborn County, Indiana COVID-19 Citizen Support on Monday, March 9. The page had 500 members in the first 72 hours, and it now has more than 2,600 members.

“I just started it because I had such an interest in sharing non-bias educational information for the masses in the county because there was nothing,” she said. “I decided I don’t want this page to be political posts. I wanted it to stay supportive, positive and factual.”

For help, she reached out to Ken Maddin. They became the administrators of the page that says up front, “Political posts and medical ‘advice’ will not be shared on this forum. They will be deleted and membership banned.”

It is not only spreading information but was instrumental in helping Kevin Wang raise money to pay for N95 masks for EMS, firefighters and other healthcare workers. 

Martins said Claudia Miller, who was sewing masks, connected with about 60 other women and they all are sewing masks for others in the community. Miller started her own Facebook page, Dearborn County, IN: COVID-19 Masks For Our Community.

“I can’t even tell you how many hundreds of masks these people have sewn,” Martin said. “One woman … told me that she herself had made 400 masks. I can tell you hundreds upon hundreds of masks (have been sewn) and they’re just making them available at no charge.”

Another offshoot, as Martin calls them, is the Dearborn County COVID19 Job Support Facebook page, administered by Amanda Thompson Cassidy.

“We talked about … there’s going to be a lot of people out of work. We can we have a hub … where if your company’s hiring or you know anything about unemployment benefits … those that are unemployed can get help.”

That’s when Martin, Maddin, Wang and Miller, along with attorney Andrea Ewan, formed a non-profit – Dearborn County Mask Coalition Inc. – to help fight COVID-19. A fund was set up at Civista Bank to accept donations.

Wang was one of the first ones to donate seed money, which was used to buy masks, a lot of masks, to help out first responders. 

In brainstorming on how to help, the group came up with the idea to give everybody a mask.

“In the beginning it was like, oh masks won’t do anything,” Martin said. “Then as time went on the CDC and the World Health Organization both came out and said, yes, please, please wear a mask. The mask doesn’t necessarily protect you from inhaling a pathogen. It protects others from you. If you are a silent carrier, we know now that with the coronavirus you can be exposed and you can be carrying the virus and expelling it in your breath.”

That’s when they came up with the idea of providing a mask for everyone in Dearborn County. To do that they picked four spots to distribute masks, accepting a freewill donation for each mask, with a suggestion of $1 per mask. If a person cannot afford the cost, they gave what they could.

And Martin said there were many people who gave more than a dollar, to allow the group to obtain more masks. “One man bought four masks and gave us $20.”

The third distribution is from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. this Saturday, April 25, at Dillsboro Elementary School; South Dearborn High School; Dearborn Savings Bank in Lawrenceburg; Willie’s parking lot in Hidden Valley; and Civista Bank in St. Leon.

The masks being provided are paper surgical masks, which can be worn alone or underneath a cloth mask for extra protection.

“At the time of pick up, please show an ID with proof of Dearborn County residency,” said a release from the group announcing this weekend’s distribution. “It is the goal of this coalition to flatten the curve permanently in Dearborn County, as we believe that if everyone wears a mask while shopping, getting gas, or being in the general public, we can keep our COVID-19 cases minimized going forward.”

Martin said many people are donating money. Wang and auto dealer Tom Tepe donated as did dentist Douglas Ruter of Aurora who gave $500 and 500 surgical masks. But it’s the ordinary people giving what they can that makes this so impressive.

“The people of Dearborn County are supporting this. It is a beautiful thing,” she said.

Some have asked her what are they passing out masks and helping others for. She tells them it can make a difference. She gives three reasons why.

First, if people wearing masks can contain 10 percent of the viral spores when they are out “that is a great thing.”

Second, masks can be a tangible reminder that it is a tool to be more actively involved in and protecting yourself and the community.

Third, “it says we care. ... It is the entire county. It’s all of those people that bought four masks and drop a $10 bill in the bucket so that we could order more masks.”

Martin said it has been heartwarming to see the people come to the distribution sites.

“I can’t emphasize enough how this has blown into literally Dearborn Countians loving each other. I can’t even emphasize enough how, if you were at the collection sites and saw … people with kids and dogs and grandma and grandpa and people driving in with nine earrings on their ears and tattoos all over their body. I mean, every person, every walk of life is coming to the distributions. And it warms my heart, warms all of our hearts. This is for everybody.”

The Dearborn County Register & Journal Press

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