SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas – Some would say humanity bands together only during crisis, but others would argue the community was always close – crisis just brings it out in a more tangible way.
Over the past few months, multiple Sheppard AFB squadrons and communities have gotten together to fight the COVID-19 pandemic in their own ways. Add to the groups of supporting heroes the members of Operation Thread Masters, a spouse-led volunteer group making face covers for Sheppard’s base populace.
“As the COVID-19 situation developed, the importance of reserving N95 and surgical masks for medical personal became apparent and the need for cloth face masks surfaced,” said Megan Wruk, Sheppard AFB key spouse and coordinator/seamstress for Operation Thread Masters. “The call for volunteer seamstresses and donations was put out through Key Spouses and the Sheppard Spouses Facebook groups. The Operation Thread Masters Facebook group evolved as a means to communicate with volunteers.”
Wruk, the wife of the 469th Training Squadron’s Maj. Paul Wruk, said there are currently 54 members of the Operation Thread Masters Facebook group, all dedicated to volunteering their services for civilian and military personnel on Sheppard. She said Operation Thread Masters is part of the community of sewers and community members that donate, and they aim to show what can happen if the community comes together to get the mission done.
“This community has a history of standing tall against tragedy,” said Samantha Gassman, Sheppard AFB key spouse mentor and wife of 82nd Medical Support Squadron Commander Lt. Col. Ryan Gassman. “From natural disasters to the pandemic we’re facing today. Their resilience and generosity during this unprecedented time makes me proud to call Wichita Falls home.”
Gassman is also a member of Operation Thread Masters and has led their effort to solicit face cover donations from local organizations, businesses and individuals, as well as pick up and delivery. She said her calls for donations and help have been answered by strikingly quick responses of “Yes, how can we help?” or a “We’re happy to help!” or even the occasional “How many boxes?”
“So far, we’ve had five organizations donate (face covers), with several more committed to the effort,” she said. “CoverCraft Industries, Aunt Pam’s Closet, the Community Health Care Center, the Red River and Wichita Mountain Quilting Guilds have donated a total of 900 plus (face covers), with more on the way. The support we’ve seen from the Wichita Falls community is incredible.”
Along with the donations, the group members have sewn over 800 masks. Brining the total of masks donated to the base around 1700, with more on the way.
Gassman and Wruk said seeing the community come together to support Airmen and those on base is very fulfilling. Gassman said being an Air Force veteran, she is glad to have a part in an endeavor that is giving back to her Air Force family.
So far, giving back to the military has seen a lot of faces protected.
“[It is going] really well,” Wruk said. “The group effort is well coordinated. We have bins located in the side lobby of the Spiritual Development Center for fabric and elastic donations, prepared grab bags for seamstresses and for completed (face cover) donations. Everyone participating is making a difference.”