Photo by Laura Wells

Hannah, 9 years old and first-year 4-H member, sews a face mask. 


RENO, Nev. – When the Elko County Emergency Operations Center put in a call March 31 to their local University of Nevada, Reno Extension office saying they needed face masks, Extension’s 4-H youth and their families swung into action, making masks not only for the Operations Center, but also for their local School District nutrition services workers who are helping to serve lunches to students who receive free and reduced meals. Similarly, 4-H youth and their families in White Pine County were early responders to the need for masks, and are bus
y making masks for the William Bee Ririe Hospital and Rural Health Clinic in Ely. Now, Nevada 4-H has launched a statewide effort to help provide face masks needed in Nevada communities.

“We are now calling upon 4-H youth, volunteers and their families to help make and provide face masks,” said Carrie Stark, Nevada 4-H program director with Extension. “Our youth are very community-service oriented and are willing to help. And, our 4-H staff, as well as our volunteer club leaders, will help coordinate the efforts, making sure the masks get to those who need them and ensuring appropriate health and social-distancing recommendations are followed throughout the process.”

Stark said engaging youth in the mask-making project also provides them with something constructive to do now, while they may be struggling with the confinement of the stay-at-home order.

“By participating in the project, youth can feel a connection with their fellow 4-Hers statewide, as well as a connection with their communities,” she said. “It can help them feel they are all doing something useful during this crisis. We are encouraging them to first make some masks for their own family, and then make some for those in need in their communities.”

Stark says community service is always a large component of the 4-H youth development program, and studies show it pays off.

“Research has shown that 4-H youth are four times more likely to contribute to their communities than other youth. By encouraging youth to engage in community service, it not only helps our communities now, but it helps our youth develop compassion, character and leadership skills that will serve them, and our communities, well in the future.”

Now that the word is out that 4-Hers are helping to make masks, more requests are coming in.

“I’d say that requests are coming in faster than our 4-H members can sew,” said Jill Baker-Tingey, Extension educator in Elko County.

Baker-Tingey said that in her county, youth and family members of the Clover Point, Ruby Valley and Elko Big “E” 4-H Clubs have probably already made over 100 masks, and are busy making more. In White Pine County, the 4-H Virtual Crochet Club has partnered with the recently formed Creating for our Community ❤ group, already churning out close to 200 masks through the collaborative effort.

Stark says 4-H members, staff and volunteers are receiving information on how to make masks according to CDC (Centers for Disease Control) recommendations, as well as information on how to maintain social distancing and other health recommendations while participating in the project. 4-H staff are working to establish drop-off points for the masks and partnering with others in their communities to ensure social distancing recommendations are followed to protect the health and safety of everyone involved. Stark is also reminding everyone that masks do not take the place of following all other recommendations, such as social distancing and frequent hand-washing, during this time.

Businesses and others not involved in 4-H can help with the mask-making project by providing mask materials or funds for materials. Some businesses have already stepped up to provide fabric, and JoAnn Fabrics and Craft Store (a national 4-H supporter), is providing a 15 percent discount to 4-H members and leaders, for example. Those not currently involved in 4-H who wish to contribute to the Nevada 4-H face mask effort should contact:
In northern Nevada, Sarah Chvilicek at sarahc@unr.edu
in southern Nevada (Clark and Lincoln Counties, and Pahrump Area), Nora Luna, lunan@unr.edu

Those involved in 4-H wanting to participate or with questions, should contact their local Extension 4-H staff and/or club leader, or go to extension.unr.edu/4h.