News | April 17, 2020

Amateur mask makers proliferate among property disposal workforce

By Jeff Landenberger and Jake Joy DLA Disposition Seervices

Defense Logistics Agency Disposition Services associates around the globe have jumped aboard the do-it-yourself mask-making craze to protect their families and meet new safety requirements for essential Defense Department workers.

“Effective immediately, to the extent practical, all individuals on DOD property, installations and facilities will wear cloth face coverings when they cannot maintain 6 feet of social distance in public areas or work centers,” Defense Secretary Mark Esper recently directed.

At the DLA Disposition Services site in Norfolk, Virginia, Holly Gomez crafted masks for her teammates and her husband’s co-workers. Gomez is a property disposal technician by day, but at night, she sews.

Woman works at sewing machine making face mask
Holly Gomez a property disposal technician with DLA Disposition Services at Norfolk, Virginia creates cloth mask at her home to supply to her co-workers to help keep them safe during the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo by Daniel Gomez
Woman works at sewing machine making face mask
Holly Gomez makes mask at home
Holly Gomez a property disposal technician with DLA Disposition Services at Norfolk, Virginia creates cloth mask at her home to supply to her co-workers to help keep them safe during the Covid-19 pandemic. Photo by Daniel Gomez
Photo By: Jeff Landenberger
VIRIN: 200413-N-AA987-283

“I usually make blankets for puppies going to new homes, so they have the litter scent on them when they go to their new home,” Gomez said.

She was homebound when she started considering how she could help warehouse workers who needed masks, she said. She had scrap material already on hand and turned to YouTube tutorials to learn about mask construction.

Gomez said she can craft 10 masks a night and has already made one for everyone at her site. Her husband works at the adjacent Navy installation and hands the masks out to his colleagues.

Kathleen Disher and Cindy Foster from DLA Disposition Services Headquarters in Battle Creek, Michigan, are also producing cloth masks. Disher said she has sewn for years, regularly making costumes for her children and eventually turning her hobby into a side business. She’d already made and donated about 100 masks to an online group producing them for local healthcare workers when she received an email from DLA Disposition Services Director Michael Cannon stating that masks would be required for employees. She quickly sent Cannon an email offering to donate her creations to her work site.

Foster has also provided masks for the Battle Creek staff’s use. Most of the roughly 500 she’s made have been donated to a senior services organization that issues them to nursing facilities and Meals on Wheels.

“I’ll give them to anyone who needs them,” Foster said. “We’re in an emergency situation and we’re civil servants. Just seemed like the right thing to do.” 

In the command’s Northeast region, New England Area Manager Brandon Meyer took mask construction to another level, pumping out 3D-printed masks and donating them to community-care organizations, family members and essential agency employees who are still working in warehouses in the area.

Several 3-D printed antimicrobial facemasks
3-D printed antimicrobial facemasks sit in the home workshop of DLA Disposition Services New England Area Manager Brandon Meyer prior to donation. Meyer has been a 3-D printing enthusiast for about eight years and can print out a malleable, form-fitting two-component mask in four hours for about $2.50 apiece based off a design plan he found circulating online. Photo by Brandon Meyer.
Several 3-D printed antimicrobial facemasks
3-D printed antimicrobial facemasks
3-D printed antimicrobial facemasks sit in the home workshop of DLA Disposition Services New England Area Manager Brandon Meyer prior to donation. Meyer has been a 3-D printing enthusiast for about eight years and can print out a malleable, form-fitting two-component mask in four hours for about $2.50 apiece based off a design plan he found circulating online. Photo by Brandon Meyer.
Photo By: Jeff Landenberger
VIRIN: 200416-D-AA987-284
As a 3D printing enthusiast, Meyer said over the past eight years he has accumulated seven printers that cost $300 to $2,200. Once he decided to begin printing masks, he said it took him a while to sift through “a lot of junk” online to find a good design, and then a little bit of effort tweaking his printers to get the right calibration. He said he’s using an FDA-approved antimicrobiall filament, and the masks are higher quality when they are produced one at a time. It takes him about four hours to produce each two-component mask, and with the higher quality filament he’s using, the per-mask cost is about $2.50 instead of $.60 per mask if he were using standard, non-antimicrobial material.

The nice thing about the masks, Meyer said, is that with thermal plastic, a user can apply light heat to the mask, making it malleable to create a custom fit and increase protection for the wearer.