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Coronavirus Update: 95-Year-Old Former Seamstress Sewing Masks To Help Save Lives

FLORAL PARK, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- Volunteers of all ages are stepping up to help meet the needs of essential workers during the coronavirus outbreak.

CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff has the story of one such volunteer, a 95-year-old who is sewing her heart out to save lives.

Millie Bonagura has enlisted in an army, of sorts. Armed with cloth, strings and a lifetime of experience as a seamstress, the floral park great grandmother has joined the ranks of those making a difference, by making masks.

"I had to do something for this tragedy," Bonagura said.


Bonagura has sewn hundreds of cloth masks. It takes a half hour to make each one.

"You gotta cut it, press it. It becomes natural after a while," she said.

MOREHow To Safely Put On, Wear And Take Off Face Masks

Like the wedding gowns she sewed while owning a bridal store, this is now her labor of love.

"With all my heart, because instead of watching television all day, I'm making masks for the nurses in the hospital. I could cry," Bonagura said.

Millie is one of many putting sewing skills to use in an effort organized by the Grabers of Huntington.

"That was my goal, just to sew, and suddenly I became ... it almost felt like the Amazon of masks," said Keta Graber, the founder of Stitched Together Long Island.

The group's volunteers have made more than 20,000 free masks for essential workers.

"The site has become a family, a community. It's giving people a purpose to move forward," Keta said.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Spreadsheets sort out the flood of requests. Masks are delivered or taped to doors for pick up.

"They are not as good as a medical grade mask, but they are much, much better than nothing," group co-founder Peter Graber said.

"The tears and the anxiety and the fear that you hear in their voice, and then they get this gift that's coming from the whole community," Keta Graber said.

MORECoronavirus Update: Cuomo Says A Return To 'New Normal' Won't Happen Until There's Massive Testing, Orders People To Wear Face Coverings In Public

And from the youngest to the oldest, they're trying to save lives.

Millie was recently lauded as a hero by Nassau County Executive Laura Curran.

"She is stitching away. She's making sure those on the front lines have what they need to be safe. Millie, God bless you. Thank you," Curran said.

Millie works seven days a week, wishing she could make more, but her nearly century-old hands are working as fast as they can.

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