Rural pastor creating 3D masks for essential workers with the help of PEF Fund
By Lindsay Peyton
Sitting idle in the midst of a pandemic did not suit Pastor Matthew Davis at Bridges Chapel and Greenhill UMC in Mount Pleasant. He felt called to help – but just wasn’t sure exactly what to do. Then, he heard about 3D printed masks – and embarked on a journey to make and distribute protective equipment for his community.
“It kind of fell into my lap, to be honest,” Davis recalled. “You know how they say God opens doors? They just opened left and right, left and right. We knew this is what we were supposed to do.”
Davis had been brainstorming ways to help in Mount Pleasant. He was aware that other churches were praying with first responders and hospital staff but he wanted to find a way to go the extra mile.
“As Wesleyans, we want to pray for others – and we do,” Davis said. “But we’re also very action oriented.”
He also wanted to take advantage of the connectionalism so central to the Methodist church. He considered the possibility to feed staff at area hospitals. “That didn’t feel right either,” Davis said.
Then, he discovered the “Montana Mask,” a design created by doctors that can be created on a 3D printer. The mask is reusable, comfortable and affordable — and can be cleaned with soap and water. The filters – HEPA Polypropylene filters or triple padded sewn cotton fabric squares – are the only part that needs to be discarded.
Davis said that the Montana Mask is not meant to replace a certified medical N-95 mask. Still, the design is one of the better ones on the market and is accepted at hospitals in several states.
The files and instructions to print the mask are free and available online at MaketheMasks.com.
Davis had worked as a nursing assistant and attended nursing school before becoming a pastor. “I started researching medical journals to make sure that this wasn’t a mediocre mask,” he recalled.
The more he dug around, the more convinced he was that the Montana Mask was a great solution. There was only one problem, Davis said. He did not have a 3D printer.
Davis went onto Facebook and started asking around. Tennison Memorial Methodist was able to help. The neighboring church also members ready to jump on board – Charles Guest and his wife Jeani. The couple has been boots on the ground ever since, Davis said.
Before long, they had the 3D printer set up to make masks in three sizes, for children, women and men. Each takes about four to five hours to print.
“That’s why we needed more printers,” Davis said. “And we have to check on them every 30 minutes.”
His goal is to create at least 500 masks and distribute them for free to those on the front line, including essential workers, as well as sick, elderly and immune-compromised individuals.
Davis realized it would take more printers to reach that number.
Rev. Bert Bagley, executive director, at the Permanent Endowment Fund (PEF) of Moody Methodist Church helped Davis go to the next level.
The PEF provides grants to non-profits around the world to advance care in the name and spirit of Jesus. Bagley said that Davis’ mask project fit the bill.
Bagley first heard about Davis from Mark Young, district superintendent of the North District. Young knew that this was exactly the type of project that the PEF promotes.
“He thought that I’d be interested and began telling me all about it,” Bagley recalled .
Bagley then researched the Montana Mask on his own. He was impressed and brought the opportunity to the PEF board, who awarded Davis with a $2,500 grant.
“What’s not to like about this project?” Bagley asked. “It’s a simple thing to do that can make a really big difference.”
Bagley also served in Mount Pleasant in the past and said the area has a place in his heart. He also is confident that Davis can inspire other congregations.
“This is an example of a pastor of a local church looking outside his walls to serve,” he said. “It encourages other small churches – and large churches learn from that and say, ‘We can do that too.’”
Already, Davis and Guest have made a couple dozen masks. They added a silicone stripping to make the masks more durable and a better fit. Each mask costs about $2 to make, and production will continue as long as the need is there.
“After we’ve made as much as we can, or run out of resources, we’re going to take the printers and donate them to elementary schools to go towards our Bishop’s vision of We Love All God’s Children,” Davis said.
The North District of the Texas Annual Conference is also helping Davis on this mission. Donations can be made to the office with a note to give to the “Mask Fund.”
Supporting the project allows individuals to get involved in protecting the community, without leaving the safety of their homes.
Davis said this will also protect the older church members at his two congregations. “I’m doing what I can do protect them,” he said. “Protecting my flock is what I know how to do.”
He hopes that by providing quality masks, he can keep people safe for a long time.
“God has really blessed us to be able to help like this,” Davis said. “All of this comes from Jesus. That’s where my heart lies and Charles’ too, just to walk like Him. That’s what produces our desire to help and care for others in the best way possible.”
The pastor hopes to inspire other churches and individuals to join the Make the Masks effort – and even offered to help.
“If anyone has a 3D printer, all they have to do is call me,” he said. “They can start doing this for their community.”