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A casual conversation between neighbors in Salem resulted in hundreds of needed face masks.

Susan Wilson recalled chatting with Fariborz Pakseresht a couple weeks ago in their Pringle Creek neighborhood in south Salem.

She said that Pakseresht, who is director of the Oregon Department of Human Services, told her that he wanted face masks or coverings his agency’s employees who work with Oregonians to secure food, medical and other benefits.

He said that available face coverings were going to other frontline workers, such as hospital workers, recalled Wilson.

Last month, Salem Health asked community members to sew masks for health care workers who work on the frontlines of the COVID-19 outbreak. The overwhelming response drew a long line of cars and Salem Health ran out of sewing kits.

“Some of our neighbors had gone to that and were very disappointed,” said Pakseresht.

Then came another opportunity to help produce face coverings, recommended by public health officials as a way to slow the spread of COVID-19.

Wilson said that her conversation with Pakseresht planted a seed. She said she sent a note out to other neighbors and scheduled Zoom meeting to plan how to get the agency what it needed.

Over the weekend, seven quilters and sewing enthusiasts assembled 100 masks for Department of Human Services, she said.

Pakseresht said the masks went to grateful employees at the department’s Marion County office.

“We’ve got people in offices who are dealing with child welfare and people out inspecting nursing homes, so we wanted to give them some sense that their safety was important,” said Wilson.