Clay Chamber, Community First to provide 1,000 masks to first responders

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FLEMING ISLAND – The Clay Clay County Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Community First Credit Union, said on April 7 it will pay to manufacture of 1,000 masks for first responders and essential personnel in Clay County. The protective masks will be produced by a local small business in Clay County and distributed by the Office of Emergency Management.

The masks are being made by Renee Thorp at DIRenee Creations, a Clay County small business.

“We appreciate the support of Community First Credit Union in providing the funds to purchase and distribute this critical equipment to our first responders,” said Chamber President Wendell Chindra. “Their support of local business has been critical to our ability to meet the needs of our Clay County heroes.”

“As the supply of masks for frontline workers has dwindled, amazing people in our com-munity have stepped up to help,” said John Hirabayashi, CEO and president of Community First. “We are proud to join forces with the Clay Chamber to help fill this critical need.”

Thorp, who has been sewing since she was age 9, said she started making the masks after being asked about them by someone at a Chamber Finally Friday meeting. The masks are made from a cotton material with a non-woven interface that she said adds extra protection on the inside. They are pleated and sewn together. Thorp said it is nearly impossible to find elastic right now, so she has fashioned the ties from a softer, stretchy jersey knit.

Since posting the first masks on her Facebook page, Thorp said she has had many inquiries about them.

“I posted them, then I got more people. Then more people. Now people are panicking, so I called a friend to come help me,” she said. In addition to the masks, she also makes dresses for little girls, purses, hooded towels and other items. You can find her at the Farmers Market and the Orange Park Fall Festival, she said.

The masks are expected to be completed and distributed before the end of April, Chindra said.

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