In partnership with Electronic Caregiver, a national health technology company, Beth Stager, an independent partner, and Hope Carey, an independent eldercare resource planner, have been working with the Manatee County Aging Network, along with thousands of volunteers, to sew masks for hospitals, senior living facilities and others in need. In addition to starting a public Manatee Sarasota PPE Mask Facebook group dedicated to the cause, this group of volunteers has enlisted the help of several businesses and organizations, including Bayside Community Church and even the Pittsburgh Pirates. Volunteers have made a staggering total of 30,000 masks, of which have been donated to Manatee Memorial Hospital, Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, the local police department, the sheriff’s department and more.

Hope Carey: Occupation Senior Real Estate Specialist with Keller Williams on the Water and Eldercare Resource Planner with Coastal Senior Consulting

SRQ: What has this time been like for your company?
Hope Carey: My company straddles two different parts of the world, both healthcare and real estate. This time has put an entirely new spin on both sides of my world; simply sorting out what and how to function in this new environment has become a daily effort. I have spent almost every day studying what is happening on both fronts and it has been a continual barrage of information, misinformation and interpretation. The other part of this that has been the blessing is that this time simply made me personally stop dead in my tracks. I have had to examine my own thoughts and activities. I immediately started reaching out to the external world even more intimately than ever before. We need each other so much. It’s easy to get lost in the “self” and how is this going to affect me. Instead, this has caused me to look at how this is going to affect all of us. It is all intertwined and to create real change it takes a village!

Kat Hart: Retired Real Estate Agent, Mask Maker for Electronic Caregiver

SRQ: What would you like to see for the future of Sarasota? Any positives we can take away from this?

Kat Hart: Practice “selflessness” and not “selfishness.” I long for a society that is kind, that is not driven by wealth or lack thereof; a community that bands together, as humanity, and stops politicizing life. One that understands what PTSD looks like during a pandemic and responds with compassion rather than anger. People are afraid, deal with it. Be kind, be helpful, be forgiving. And, most of all, be smart in how you deal with COVID, not just for yourself, but for the greater good.

Beth Stager: Independent Partner, Electronic Caregiver/Former Nurse, Sarasota Memorial Hospital

SRQ: What has the response been in regard to your mask-making efforts?

Beth Stager: The mask-making initiative has been an amazing journey. When Hope first called me to ask if I would be interested in coming on board to help get it started, I thought OK, I have never been a good sewer, the only thing I ever made and was the last was a bumblebee costume for my daughter, Mary, who will be turning 25 this year! But as we talked, I focused again on what I could do to help my friends and others in the medical field have what they needed to protect from this virus that we did not know how it would affect our communities or our families. It has been amazing how this group has formed; we have not met face-to-face, only through social media, and what we have accomplished to help our community fill in the gaps at the hospitals and protect those most vulnerable. And as so many have given their time and talents, I’m speechless.