Oaks of Louisiana Residents Refurbish Mask

Apr 17, 2020

Not all heroes wear masks. Some make them … or refurbish them.

That is what Oaks of Louisiana residents Faye Miller, Frances Hayden, Dot LaCaze, Hallie Belotte, Jean Eppler and Jackie Mitchell have been doing since residents were encouraged to self isolate because of the COVID-19 pandemic.


This good deed by these volunteer seamstresses – dubbed the Betsy Rosses of The Oaks – has been invaluable to Willis-Knighton healthcare workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amid the outbreak, there has been an unprecedented national shortage of N95 masks, a standard piece of equipment when interacting with infectious patients. Consequently, no one wants to toss masks that are past their expiration date. N95 masks don’t expire in terms of their functionality according to the Centers for Disease Control, but the ear straps to hold a mask onto the face can deteriorate, which is what happened with many of the N95 masks in Willis-Knighton inventory.

“Because of the shortage, we decided to refurbish masks we already had,” says Lisa Maxey, who is overseeing special projects for Willis-Knighton’s Crisis Command Center. “What these residents have done is inspiring. It is Americana in a way. They feel so much a part of the Willis-Knighton family and wanted to do what they could to help.”

For several weeks, the women, along with Oaks employees, have sat down in front of their sewing machines and replaced deteriorated straps on N95 masks. Other volunteers prepare materials they use, as well as sort and box the finished masks. To date, 1,400 masks have been refurbished and returned to Willis-Knighton to be disinfected and then dispersed to healthcare workers

“Just like Betsy Ross, these ladies are doing what they can to keep America going. Their work is symbolic of what’s going on now,” Maxey says.