ENID, Okla. — A collaboration between United Way of Enid & Northwest Oklahoma and Community Development Support Association brought 22,500 masks to Enid on Thursday, to support regional day care centers and nonprofits.

United Way of Enid & Northwest Oklahoma CEO and Executive Director Dan Schiedel said he ordered the masks through a community support program offered by Oklahoma Department of Commerce, in hopes of providing needed safety materials for nonprofits and day cares as COVID-19 cases have taken a sharp turn upward.

Stephanie Gray, child care resource and referral specialist for CDSA, said masks were packaged in individual plastic bags by noon Thursday, and will go to child care facilities in 15 counties "to protect them and their workers."

Kim Kelly, early childhood coordinator at CDSA, said that region includes 265 child care providers across Northwest Oklahoma.

"This will be an additional protection for them from COVID-19, for them, for the kids and the families they serve," Kelly said.

Schiedel said 5,000 masks are going to daycare centers, another 2,500 have been provided to Enid Public Schools, about 2,000 are earmarked for the Marshallese community in Enid, and the remainder will help food pantries and nonprofit assistance agencies in the region.

Cheri Ezzell, CDSA executive director, said she'd just placed an order Wednesday to buy masks for day care facilities. She said having United Way order the large shipment means that money will be available to support other projects in the community.

"We want to continue our goal of taking care of the community," Ezzell said, "and one way to do that is to make sure people in our community have the protective materials they need."

It took a forklift to unload the masks Thursday, but it did not take long to find homes for them.

Schiedel said most of the 22,500 masks had been claimed by various nonprofits before they were unloaded.

"We've already gone through most of the masks," he said. "They came in and they went out fast."

Schiedel said he planned to apply again for the same program, and he hopes to have another shipment of masks sent to support the community.

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Neal is health, military affairs and religion reporter and columnist for the Enid News & Eagle. Follow him on Twitter, @jamesnealwriter, and online at jamesrneal.com.
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