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When Nantucket Cottage Hospital’s president Gary Shaw called on the community to start making medical masks, Nate Barber and his family-owned building company responded.

After donating all their own gloves and N95 masks to the hospital, the Barbers converted their workshop into a mask-making operation. They turned work benches into sewing stations, sourced materials donated by Weatherly Design and began enlisting sewers.

From morning to night, Barber and his mother sat behind sewing machines making hundreds of masks. His father delivered them to the hospital each day, while his wife Ayesha enlisted more and more sewers through a Facebook group she and Alli Mitchell launched called “Nantucket, Let’s Get Sewing.” Providing instructions on how to make masks, the group gained hundreds of participants, who not only sewed masks for the hospital, but also for local postal workers, airport workers and grocery store clerks. “Now, there’s too many people to name who are making the masks,” Barber says.

While the Barbers may only be a handful of the hundreds of people making masks on the island, their connection to the Nantucket Cottage Hospital is especially personal. “I was born there. My kids were born there. The staff are my colleagues in EMS. My friends work there,” says Barber, who also serves as a Nantucket firefighter alongside his brother. “And Dr. Lepore saved my life when he found my cancer.” Amid this coronavirus crisis, Nate and his father are both fighting cancer, making them all the more vulnerable to the virus.

“I’m blown away by how people are responding during this crisis,” Barber says. “Our doctors, nurses and first responders are showing us their commitment to humankind and their courage in the face of a pandemic. Tradesmen, retailers and landscapers are showing us their sense of responsibility by shutting down their operations for the health of the island residents. People are making masks and hand sanitizers. Businesses are adapting to provide essential services in a safe manner. I feel very proud to be from Nantucket right now.”

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