As a public service, Shaw Media will provide open access to information related to the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) emergency. Sign up for the newsletter here
Responding to the real-life drama of COVID-19, opera singer Solange Sior has launched a northern Illinois effort to create protective masks for doctors and nurses for whom they are in short supply.
The widespread need was publicized in a Facebook post by a friend, Dr. Dorothea Poulos of Elgin Family Physicians, said Sior, artistic director of Fox Valley Lyrical Productions, previously known as Soirée Lyrique. Locally, Sior is known for memorable performances in communities including Geneva and Elgin.
“We at Elgin Family Physicians are [running] out of adult face masks, and we have only a few pediatric face masks,” Sior cited. “If you bought a bunch of masks last week or are in the building trades and have a stockpile, please consider giving whatever you can spare. Perhaps you are skilled in sewing and can sew us a few masks.”
Sior said she immediately jumped on the opportunity to return the support, noting Poulos served for several years on the board of her Elgin OPERA company and has been a donor for many local arts organizations, including Fox Valley Lyrical Productions.
“I gave her a box of 20 construction masks from my fiancé Dirk Dypold’s business, Advanced Geothermal, Plumbing and Heating,” Sior said about kicking off the drive.
Sior said hospitals go through the disposable masks quickly, so she embraced the idea of homemade masks to fill the gap.
“I don’t sew, not even a button,” Sior said. “But I’m pretty good at marketing. So I created a group page on Facebook and am inviting people to get involved by joining the group – Masks Making! A Fox Valley Action Group.”
There’s information on the page, such as patterns for the masks, exchanges of requests to help medical personnel in Illinois and sharing of material. The group especially has been in need of 1/4-inch elastic.
“It’s like the new hot item, like toilet paper,” Sior said.
Sior encourages anyone to join the Facebook group to get involved and help save lives.
“There’s a lot of demands for these homemade masks and we need people to get involved,” she said. “Our nurses, doctors and paramedics cannot be going to work without masks. It would be like sending a soldier to war without a weapon.”
Sior has been following the coronavirus pandemic longer than most, thanks to Suzanne Scherr Steger, formerly part of Elgin OPERA, who teaches opera at a university north of Wuhan, China, and has been locked down in her home there since Jan. 23. She and Sior are longtime teaching collaborators online. Sior believes everyone should be encouraged to wear face masks in the U.S. [As an aside about masks in general, she also notes that N95 masks without valves that allow unfiltered exhalation are preferable.]
To aid the mask-making project, Sior, who lives in West Dundee, recently drove to Rockford to get 60 yards of elastic from Sandra Haggard, a former costumer for Elgin OPERA.
Sior has reached out to various costume departments to be part of the project.
As she rallies people to pitch in to help fight the pandemic, she remembers her father’s role in the French resistance in Belgium during World War II between the ages of 13 and 17. Lucien Sior was one of two men out of 39 to survive.
“He was always thinking ahead,” she said.