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Local family uses sewing talents to make face masks

SPRING LAKE — Chris Chalupa has a long history of sewing after learning the skill from his mother in an effort to spend less money on re-enactment costumes.

The Spring Lake man said his brother sent him an article last week about people sewing masks in an effort to help out with a shortage. With the world in a standstill because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Mona Shores Public Schools social worker found himself with time on his hands, so he called a friend who works at a nursing home in Ohio and asked if they could use them.

“We started sewing Saturday morning,” Chalupa said.

His mother, Karen Chalupa, who lives next door, joined the effort. His 11-year-old daughter, Zozzy, also wanted to get in on the project, so Chalupa began teaching her how to sew.

Chalupa, who also sews costumes for the Central Park Players and Spring Lake Public Schools drama productions, said he first checked guidelines for making masks from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“You have to use 100 percent cotton quilting fabric, which has a very tight weave,” he said.

The Chalupas went to Field’s Fabrics in Spring Lake and purchased a variety of clearance quilting fabric in order to keep down the cost. They bought 30 yards of elastic, too.

“It takes 14 inches (of elastic) per mask,” he said.

The masks were created production-line style with Karen cutting the fabric and pinning the pleats and elastic. Chris sewed the masks on a machine while Zozzy clipped the threads and trimmed the elastic.

By the end of the day Sunday, the family had sewn 91 masks. They shipped 30 of those to the Ohio nursing home. They also posted what they were doing on social media and have had a variety of people requesting the masks.

“A friend who does social-work home visits picked up some for her colleagues and herself,” Chalupa said. “An urgent care employee picked up 15.”

Chalupa said they have about $200 into the project. Some people are making donations, but no money is required.

On Monday, when they heard about the governor’s pending stay-at-home order, the Chalupas went back to the fabric store to get more materials so they can continue their project.

“My mom and I were planning on continuing until we ran out of stuff,” he said.

Chalupa said they are not the only ones making the masks.

“There were a lot of ladies there buying fabric and elastic,” he said of the store. “There’s a group in Holland sewing and people in Lansing.”

Chalupa said people on social media thanked him for the idea and said they planned to make masks, as well.

Anyone interested in a mask can contact Chalupa through Facebook. He will then put the masks in a bag with their name on it and put it in a box on his porch so there is proper social distancing.

Chalupa said he can’t guarantee their effectiveness and accepts no responsibility. The masks need to be washed and sanitized before using them.

“We’re hearing some people are using the homemade ones as a cover over the commercial masks” to help extend the lives of them, he said.

Chalupa said that it has been a great project for his family.

“If we have to be homebound, it’s nice to have something to do that’s for the greater good,” he said.

State to mail voter absentee applications
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Michigan’s Secretary of State will mail out applications for all residents to cast absentee ballots for the May 5 election.

All Michigan voters will be receiving an application in the mail to cast an absentee ballot for the upcoming May elections.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said in a press release that the step is aimed at ensuring the protection of public health and democratic rights.

The change will impact about 100,000 voters in Ottawa County who will see proposals on the May 5 ballot, said county elections coordinator Steve Daitch.

Benson and municipal clerks throughout the state have worked together for the past two weeks to determine if items on the ballot could wait until August and how they might hold the May election, according to the press release.

School districts such as Coopersville, Holland and Zeeland opted to move their proposals to August, Daitch said.

Grand Haven Area Public Schools’ annual operating millage renewal is one of the measures remaining on the May ballot. The 18-mill tax, which is levied against nonprincipal residences and other nonexempt properties, will generate more than $15 million.

GHAPS Superintendent Andy Ingall said they plan to keep the renewal on the May ballot because the district collects 100 percent of local taxes during the summer collection, meaning voters need to vote on it in May. He explained the local taxes support the school district from July to September when they don’t receive state aid payments. He said the nonhomestead millage is the local funding portion that allows the district to collect its entire per-pupil funding allotment. Ingall said it’s “core funding” for the district’s daily operations.

By mailing voters the application and receiving a ballot via mail, Daitch said he believes it could have a positive impact in voter turnout.

Michigan’s presidential primary in March brought an increase in voters. Given the changes in voting and mailed applications, Daitch said he believes the May election could have an even higher turnout.

In a typical May election, Ottawa County’s voter turnout is no more than 30 percent, Daitch said. To prepare for more absentee voters, officials have ordered more ballots.

With the election five weeks away, officials are currently still planning to move forward with allowing in-person voting at local precincts. However, Daitch said they’re strongly encouraging residents to cast their ballots via absentee in the event in-person voting won’t be an option. He said it will depend on Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order, which is currently set to end April 13.

Daitch said they are in constant communication with the Secretary of State office, and he encourages residents to stay tuned for future communication about the May 5 election.