Portland's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports and more | Portland, Oregon | KGW.com

Sew others may live: Coast Guard swimmers make masks for healthcare workers

The Rescue Swimmers at U.S. Coast Guard Sector North Bend have been using their skills to make protective masks for their local healthcare workers.

NORTH BEND, Ore — Many people know that Coast Guard rescue swimmers are skilled when it comes to saving lives. But not everybody knows that they are also trained and skilled at sewing and repairing fabric. 

Coast Guard rescue swimmers undergo some of the most intense training in any military branch.

Derick Ansley with Coast Guard Sector North Bend says the training involves "a lot of helicopter rescue swimmer stuff, to a lot of physical fitness and a lot of familiarization with being comfortable in the water."

Rescue Swimmers at Sector North Bend wear two hats as helicopter rescue swimmers and survival technicians. But even with multiple hats, Ansley says there's a lesser-known skill every Rescue Swimmer in the Coast Guard has.

"We have 13 swimmers here and along with that, we have some sewing skills that we've been taught and we use those on a daily basis for normal everyday things at the unit." They are used to repairing things like garment bags and patches.

Rescue Swimmers at Sector North Bend are putting that skill to good use, stepping up to assist their local health care workers. 

"We took this opportunity to say, "'Hey, you know we have the skills, we have enough ability to add this on top of our every day at work anyway so let's see what we can do about putting together some masks to help the community,;" Ansley said.

If they're not flying or doing maintenance, they're cutting materials, assembling layers and stitching seams. They plan on sending the masks to Bay Area Hospital in Coos Bay, a gesture the coastal hospital greatly appreciates. 

"We feel so supported by our community, we put out a request for help and we've received well over 1,000 masks from the people of Coos County," said Kelli Dion with Bay Area Hospital.

 "There are about 390 Coast Guard rescue swimmers in the Coast Guard and every one of us has the same mindset, every one of us has the same heart and every one of us is trying to kinda give back to the community," said Ansley.

Always ready to land a helping hand sew others may live. 

RELATED: TSA screeners to wear masks at checkpoints

RELATED: COVID-19 in Oregon: A look at PPE, social distancing and unemployment so far