Jo-Ann craft stores are giving away free kits to make face masks, gowns

(Daniel Karmann/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Have no fear, the crafters are here.

Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts stores are mobilizing customers to pitch in with coronavirus relief by distributing free kits to sew face masks and gowns for hospitals and healthcare facilities. Personal protective equipment is in alarmingly short supply for medical professionals across the country during the global outbreak of COVID-19.

As of March 23, all 860 locations of the craft store are offering curbside pickup and home delivery of free kits to make masks, gowns and "other essential items" to be donated to American hospitals. All open stores are carrying face mask kits in adult and youth sizes, a spokesperson for Jo-Ann told Fox News, and the materials are replenished daily. In addition, Jo-Ann is offering its store classrooms, sewing machines and professional instruction for people to produce the personal protective equipment with the free supplies there. Social distancing guidelines will be followed during this effort, the company said in a statement.

“The amazing thing about the crafting community is that, especially in difficult times, they are always looking for ways to help,” said Wade Miquelon, President and CEO of Jo-Ann. “We are seeing hospital workers, organizations and individuals coming into our stores for supplies to make these essential items, and our customers are asking us how they can help. So many are spending their time and money to help in this tragic situation, and we want to step in to do our part to protect the amazing people who are helping the communities we serve.

“It is a frightening time for many, but we have a generous community who can make a big difference as our healthcare system faces this crisis,” Miquelon continued. “We’re here to support them, and all who make to give year-round. We are all in this together.”

After obtaining the materials, crafters can follow online instructions from Jo-Ann to make the face masks and gowns. They are then encouraged to bring the completed projects back to their local branch of the craft store. Jo-Ann will then donate the homemade personal protective equipment to local hospitals near its stores, for the medical facilities to use at their discretion.

Though the face masks are not technically medical grade, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has approved the homemade fabric masks as a crisis response option, the Jo-Ann spokesperson said.

"Due to the critical shortage, health authorities and hospitals have changed their guidelines for what level of protection is recommended. The CDC has stated that homemade fabric masks are a crisis response option when other supplies have been exhausted," they explained. "While these materials are not medical grade, they have been made based on patterns and using fabric and materials recommended for medical settings, including the guidelines provided by the Providence Hospital System in Washington. These materials should only be used in accordance with current CDC guidelines."

The company is also working with larger hospitals and healthcare facilities to help secure fabric, elastic and clear vinyl – “all materials that we understand to be in short supply.”

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