Their meetings canceled indefinitely, a social crafting group that weaves used plastic grocery bags into sleeping mats for the homeless has refocused its efforts in light of COVID-19.

Known as Bags2Mats, the group of more than a dozen people of all skill levels had been meeting regularly at the Senior Center, which is now closed to the public.

Hearing about shortages of surgical masks in areas with COVID-19 patients, a few members of the group also learned that volunteers across the nation have formed sewing groups and creating homemade ones to donate to medical workers. After making a prototype mask at home and sending several to her son in Chicago, Bags2Mats member Habiba Awan is now sewing a batch to send to her daughter, a physician who works at a hospital in San Antonio.

“They had zero masks,” she said. “She reached out to us and said, ‘Find me masks.’ I ran around the whole town, called every builder I knew, (looked on) Amazon — zero.”

Cloth masks are far from an ideal solution, medical experts say, but they are better than nothing. When medical grade masks are scarce, the Centers for Disease Control recommends health care workers use bandanas or scarves as a last resort when caring for COVID-19 patients.

The homemade masks are made with regular fabric with a layer of lining inside.

“It’s not 100 percent. It’s just to prevent droplets from getting on their faces and breathing it in,” says Awan, who thus far has made about 10. “I cut a whole bunch of them out and then just sit and stitch it. You can hand stitch it; you don’t need a sewing machine.”

Bags2Mats member Cathy Michaels joined in using material she bought to make pillow cases, as well as remnants from material purchased for square dance costumes. She also went online to order anti-microbial pillow protectors to cut up for masks.

The group has posted templates for the masks on its Bags 2 Mats Facebook page.

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