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Buellton girl makes 400 face masks for Santa Barbara County Fire
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Buellton girl makes 400 face masks for Santa Barbara County Fire

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A 13-year-old Buellton girl on Tuesday handed over the final batch of almost 400 washable masks she made for Santa Barbara County Fire Department with the help of her mother and brother.

Kadence Freed made about 350 of the white masks, with “SBC Fire” printed on them in blue, for County Fire personnel, Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason said.

But she also made another 50 blue masks for the county’s Type 3 Incident Management Team, he said.

Kadence, a student at Dunn School, said it took “a few months” to make all the masks for County Fire.

“I did most of the work,” Kadence said. “My mom helped with the pinning.”

She said her brother, Collin, 10, also helped by cutting some of the elastic strips.

But the masks she made for County Fire are just part of the total; in all, she’s made about 600.

“Kadence definitely went through a few packages of needles,” her mother, Jennifer, said, adding her sewing machine needed work a few times during the process.

Masks aren’t the only things the eighth grader has made.

Kadence said she learned to sew at about age 9 when she attended a quilting camp at the Creation Station in Buellton, where she’s continued to take classes. Since then, she’s sewn seven quilts and made some of her own clothes.

“I’ve fixed a few, like, blankets that have torn,” she added.

But when the COVID-19 pandemic struck in April, Kadence began making masks for family and friends.

“Her goal was to help out the community and stay busy at home,” said Ken Andersen, who works at Nielsen Building Materials in Solvang.

“She was making masks because she likes to sew,” said his wife, Allie, who works the front desk at Dunn School. “I asked if she’d be interested in making some for display at the store.”

Kadence said yes and began supplying masks for Nielsen.

“We put them out for people who need masks, and she said people could make donations if they wanted to help with materials,” Ken Andersen said. “Her masks were very creative and colorful. We’d put them out on the counter, and they wouldn’t last long.”

Andersen said his friend Matt Farris, a County Fire division chief, told him someone had asked that the more than 300 fire personnel wear masks with the department’s name on them.

He wondered how he would get those made, and Andersen offered to help.

“It was kind of a group project,” he said.

Nielsen Building Materials bought the fabric and elastic, and the company’s silk screener helped with the printing.

“Some of our employees helped out, too,” Andersen added, noting it takes a lot of material to make a mask because each one has three layers of cloth.

County Fire spokesman Mike Eliason estimated the cost of materials at “well over $1,000.”

The precut pieces were then sent to Kadence, who spent countless hours creating the masks and delivered them to County Fire in batches, making the last delivery July 21 to the crew of Medic Engine 31 in Buellton.

“We had the N-95 masks we wear on calls,” Eliason explained. “These are everyday masks, something we’d put on to just go outside. They’re washable and reusable, which is nice. There’s also a little cut on the back where we can put in a filter.”

Eliason said the masks are being distributed to personnel throughout the department.

“We very much appreciate all the work [Kadence] did, and her family did, and we really appreciate [Andersen] donating all the materials,” he said.

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