75 Years later Dallas Red Cross Production Room is still Sewing Strong

By: Annabelle Moore, volunteer contributor, Red Cross North Texas Region

The solid and sure thump of sewing machines adds a rhythmic beat to the sing-song laughter and chatter of the five sewing ladies.  It’s a crisp Tuesday morning in the Dallas American Red Cross Production Room. Volunteers gather weekly at 8 am sharp as they have done since World War II to create handmade items bringing comfort and care to those in need.  Only today, they are revisiting an item in their repertoire not used on such a scale in over 100 years—facemasks.

Marcia Bauer is the fearless volunteer lead of the Production Room team, which includes 17 volunteers and 6 community sewing and knitting circles. Serving the North Texas American Red Cross region for over 23 years, Marcia ensures that the legacy of quality items continues to bring comfort to Texans through all of life’s challenges from cradle to grave.

Facemasks bundles made by American Red Cross volunteers in 1918. Photo Courtesy of Minnesota Historical Society Educational Resource Portal

When the COVID-19 global pandemic arrived this spring, Marcia was ready for the Veterans Administration’s call for the group to use their timeless skills to make facemasks. “I’m proud of our team, they make amazing things,” says Marcia. “They’re thrilled to use their skills for Red Cross; it’s a real community.”

With as much fabric, elastic, and bias tape as they could find, they worked together and apart at home to hand stitch over 260 masks for the VA.  30-40 smaller facemasks were donated to a local pediatric clinic.

Echoing history, it’s not the first time the American Red Cross has relied upon its talented and resilient volunteers to use their technical skills. The first call to action came in 1918 with the Spanish Flu. As soldiers returned home from the fields of war, crafters followed detailed instructions to create small shields hoping to protect and prevent the spread of the flu.

Spanish Flu face mask instructions. Courtesy of: Minnesota Historical Society Education Research Portal

Today’s Production Room volunteers stitch, needlework, and craft together over 40 items with care, compassion, and precise attention to detail. In 2019, the North Texas Region team donated over 13,360 hours of service to create 5,497 items. Crocheted baby caps, booties, afghans, quilts, bibs, and NICU layettes, burn unit blankets, wheelchair caddies and adult slippers found their way to Parkland Health and Hospital systems in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. 

The Dallas American Red Cross Production Team’s care and comfort items. Photo credit: Marcia Bauer.

While creative finger puppets, cloth books, textured sensory worms, beads of courage bags, and NICU positioner covers were given to the Children’s Health Hospital. Patients and clients of the Veteran’s Administration Medical Center, the St. Vincent DePaul Society, the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, the T.H.R.I.V.E Society, and the Salvation Army were kept warm with fleece scarves, slippers, caps, and lap quilts. Honoring their initial Production Room mission of supporting soldiers during World War II, the team makes cooling neck wraps for modern-day active duty service members working on sweltering days here in Texas and around the world.

“[The Team] has a common goal to support each other. It’s a chance to do something for the Red Cross and use their skills,” says Marcia.  “We’re proud to continue to produce thousands of items.” Marcia and her sewing circles are proof that when disasters strike, ordinary people can come together with their sleeves up, hearts open and all in, to create extraordinary things. We thank the Dallas Production Team for their service during the coronavirus pandemic!

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