Routt County volunteers, businesses make masks for community to stop spread of COVID-19 |

Routt County volunteers, businesses make masks for community to stop spread of COVID-19

Hunter Smith from the Big Agnes repair team sews a face mask to donate to Routt County United Way. Local volunteers and businesses have donated time and supplies to make enough free masks for everyone in the county.
Courtesy photo/Big Agnes

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Local businesses and volunteers are working together to make enough free face masks for everyone in Routt County as a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

This comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is advising people to wear personal protective equipment in public to prevent individuals who have the virus, knowingly or not, from spreading it to others. Last week, Routt County issued a public health order requiring people to wear face masks in businesses and on public transportation.

Routt County United Way has stepped in to coordinate the mask donations and to distribute them to residents. A team of 25 civilian volunteers has been making masks from home for the organization. 

“Our hope is to have enough masks for those who need it,” said Kate Nowak, executive director of the local United Way chapter. 

Several Steamboat businesses have joined the effort to make enough masks for every resident in the county through donations to United Way. Big Agnes and BAP, local outdoor companies, have a goal to make 10,000 masks and washable gowns. Point 6, an outdoor apparel company, has donated about 500 masks. 

Youth clubs also are lending a helping hand. Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club donated hundreds of ski buffs for people to use as personal protection. Local 4-H groups have been making masks in addition to individual sewing groups that have formed to collect materials and create masks. 

“We’ve supported the United Way over the years with company and staff donations, but this project is unique and important,” Big Agnes founder and owner Bill Gamber said in an email. “This is one project I wish wasn’t needed, but we’re tackling it as best we can in hopes to get as many masks out to the public.”

Employees from Big Agnes, BAP and Honey Stinger have been sewing about 200 face masks per day, according to Big Agnes co-owner Len Zanni. They even are holding friendly competitions to see who can make the most masks, with milestones that come with a pizza party or an ice cream social as a reward. 

The fabric for the masks comes from cotton sourced from one of Big Agnes’s suppliers, along with some donated bed sheets, T-shirts and pillowcases from LiftUp of Routt County and elastic cord from Nelson’s Upholstery, according to Zanni.

Pick up a free mask


  • 5 p.m. in Hayden with the school lunches

Wednesday to Friday

  • Noon to 1 p.m. in front of the United Way office, 443 Oak St. in Steamboat Springs


  • 11 a.m. to noon at the Phippsburg Post Office, 520 Main Road
  • After 2 p.m. at the Toponas Post Office, 33650 County Road 5
  • 3 to 5 p.m. at the Yampa Post Office, 261 Moffat Ave.
  • 5:30 p.m. at Snow Bowl in Steamboat Springs, 2090 Snow Bowl Plaza


  • Noon to 1 p.m. at the Clark Store in North Routt, 54175 Routt County Road 129

To distribute the masks to residents, United Way volunteers have been handing them out from noon to 1 p.m. Tuesday to Friday in front of the organization’s office, 443 Oak St. in Steamboat Springs. On Friday, United Way will hand out masks starting at 5:30 p.m. in front of Snow Bowl, 2090 Snow Bowl Plaza. By next week, Nowak hopes to offer masks during the school lunch giveaways for Steamboat students.

The organization also is holding distribution events at the smaller municipalities throughout Routt County. Earlier in the week, mask handouts took place in South Routt and Hayden, Nowak said. They will continue to give masks to people in these communities during the weekly school lunch giveaways.

On Friday, from 11 a.m. to noon, volunteers will be at the Phippsburg Post Office, then from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Yampa Post Office. Masks will also be available at the Toponas Post Office after 2 p.m. Friday, according to Nowak.

On Saturday, volunteers will hand out masks at the Clark Store in North Routt from noon to 1 p.m.

Before wearing the masks, people need to wash them in hot water, Nowak said. 

United Way is accepting donations for mask materials with a drop-off box at the office on 443 Oak St. Woven cotton is the ideal material, not any type of polyester. Recycled sheets work great too, Nowak said.

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.

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