If you have buttons, yarn or time to spare – or all three – White Rock’s Lois Millman wants to hear from you.
She also wants to hear from anyone who wears a face mask for work who could use a little help managing the discomfort of the ear loops.
Millman, a retired teaching assistant, says she has been crafting ‘ear savers’ for frontline workers since April, as part of a Canada-wide effort that began in Ontario.
As the name suggests, the crocheted pieces aim to ease pain and discomfort behind the ears that many who routinely wear face masks experience. Varying slightly in length depending on the size of the wearer’s head, the ear savers are made with a button at each end, so that the loops of the mask wrap around the button instead of the ear. The crocheted strap that spans the back of the head does not pull hair, Millman noted.
Initially, the movement – detailed on the Facebook page ‘Mask Mate Ear-savers for Front Line & Essential Workers – CANADA’ – focused on supporting frontline workers in hospitals, and both Peace Arch and Surrey Memorial received several dozen, Millman said.
Now, as society makes changes to try and limit the spread of COVID-19, the mandate has been expanded to include anyone who needs to wear a mask in their daily work.
“We decided that anybody who works full time is a frontline worker,” Millman said, of a decision made during a meeting with group leaders Wednesday (July 29). “We expanded it to anyone that needs to wear a mask for a lot of the day… and at our discretion.”
In asking neighbours for button donations, Millman said she discovered the ear savers are also appreciated by people who use hearing aids.
“If you wear a hearing aid, the mask on your ears makes everything move,” she explained.
Millman said she got involved with the Facebook group after discovering it while looking for a way to help during the pandemic, and became one of two “point persons” for B.C.
So far, more than 60,000 of the ear savers have been made across Canada. Millman crocheted her 400th on Friday (July 31).
In a June 26 post to the group’s Facebook page, founder Lorie Tokola notes a “pause” for volunteers to re-energize would take effect July 24 until early to mid-September, in order to rest up in the event a second wave of COVID-19 hits in the fall.
“I want us to be in good stead and ready should that happen,” Tokola said.
She described the efforts of those who have pitched in so far as “unbelievable.”
Millman, who learned how to crochet from her mother many years ago, emphasized the task doesn’t require a large degree of expertise, just a desire to help. It’s a good project for beginners, and there is a “simple and easy” pattern available on the Facebook page, she added.
For anyone who has buttons to spare, she is looking for ones that are three-quarters of an inch to 1.25” in diameter. She’s also in need of cotton or acrylic yarn.
To donate supplies or order ear savers, Millman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org