Last week, the village of North Riverside handed out 150 homemade facemasks to senior citizens and other people vulnerable to infection by the coronavirus. And, moving forward, the village plans to distribute another 1,500 to anyone in the village requesting one.

The masks, which come at no cost to residents, are being made by three local women who have been hired by the village for that task, said Village Administrator Sue Scarpiniti.

The village is paying each seamstress $3 per mask, she said. Anyone wanting a mask is asked to call the police records division at 708-762-5431 and give your name, address and phone number. The masks are delivered by a public works employee, who hangs a bag containing the mask on homes’ front door handles.

“The masks are machine washable,” said Scarpiniti. “They’re not N-95 certified, but they will help protect individuals. We encourage seniors to have them for an extra layer of protection.”

The idea for creating a program to distribute the colorful, fabric masks came together quickly after North Riverside Village Clerk Kathy Ranieri shared a Facebook post from resident Jeanette DeBartolo, who was embarking on an effort to sew face masks for healthcare workers.

DeBartolo was soliciting donations for the project, and Ranieri thought it was a perfect request to share with the followers of a new Facebook page — North Riverside Neighbors Helping Neighbors – created by Ranieri, with help from Trustee Terri Sarro and her friend Laurie Berscheid, on March 19, just as the statewide stay-at-home order was set to go onto effect and panic buying was emptying grocery store shelves.

Within four hours of DeBartolo’s fundraising request, she’d raised $1,200 from about 40 people, many from North Riverside and Riverside, enough to make 400 masks.

The masks themselves were to be made by a New Mexico woman named Liz Galvan, who DeBartolo got to know through DeBartolo’s online boutique.

Galvan began a face mask-making campaign from her home, charging $3 per mask and matching any order mask for masks. That meant DeBartolo’s purchase of 400 masks resulted in a total of 800, which are being shipped directly to Chicago area hospitals this week. In all, Galvan said she’s made more than 2,800 masks and has distributed them throughout the country.

“It’s just people working together to help others,” said DeBartolo. “I don’t think Liz comprehends the impact she’s making on people. She buys all the supplies and makes the masks by hand by herself. This is all 100-percent donated. None of the hospitals are being charged.”

Ranieri approached DeBartolo about the possibility of getting masks as a seed inventory for a village program for seniors, and through DeBartolo was able to secure 50. Ranieri then enlisted an experienced local seamstress, Renee Zakosek, to begin producing more masks for the village – based on a pattern similar to the one used by Galvan – at $3 each.

With hours, she had made 100. The village has since enlisted two more women, Patricia Gargano and Audrey Sprague, to make masks. The only hold up has been a scarcity of elastic.

“To me, this is money well-spent,” Ranieri said.