By Elizabeth Pease
Bring on the quilters, sewers and seamstresses! Across the community, sisters are using their creative skills and artistic flair to serve their neighbors and help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Just in the (by no means exhaustive) search for mask-makers we did for this story, we identified around 860 masks made by People of Praise sewers!
Here’s a round up of pictures and stories from this new frontier of service:
The Mask Lady
When Connie Schrandt (Servant Branch) heard about people making masks at home to donate to health-care workers, she decided to go into production. A prolific quilter, she had lots of extra fabric and thread on hand, but only a little elastic. Fortunately, she got some more from nearby community members.
After checking with the caretaker of her building, she put some of her masks out in the mailroom anonymously for her neighbors. Those masks were hot—they disappeared as fast as she could replenish them! Then word got around the building about who was making the masks, and Connie started getting thank-you notes, and soon people in the building were offering her more fabric and more elastic. Connie was able to let the donors know how many more masks their donations had turned into. Connie moved into the building relatively recently, and she’s wanted to get to know more people. She says, “When I meet someone in the elevator or common area, they will ask if I am the ‘mask lady’ and express their gratitude.”
The caretaker of the adjacent building heard about the masks and asked Connie to make some for their mailroom, too. Connie estimates that she’s made over 250 masks for her neighbors and various donation efforts.
Keeping it in the Ohana
In Oahu, a young Chinese couple spent three years living on the island. They are underground Christians, who attended branch meetings during their time on Oahu. When branch member Whit Au died in February, they were disappointed that they couldn’t leave China for his funeral, so they sent over 400 disposable masks instead. Says Joan Hiel, “My daughters and I drove around the island to deliver Ziploc bags full of Christ’s love in the shape of masks to our Hawaiian ohana (family) from our Chinese brother and sister in Christ who are People of Praise members in their hearts.”
Also, in Oahu, Bev Linczer has been outfitting her family members across the country in tropical prints.
Masks for Homeless Families
Linda Jo Devlaeminck (Vancouver-Portland) has made masks for the staff and residents of Community of Hope, the homeless shelter she runs. Community of Hope can provide shelter, classes, mentoring and community life for eight homeless single-parent families for four to six months. Many branch members donate funds and volunteer there.
Linda Jo got a pattern for masks from Jo Marie Hansen, put together some fabric scraps and went to work. Some of the staff asked for their favorite colors, and if Linda Jo had the right fabric she was happy to oblige.
“Since we have a lot of kids that don’t get not hugging, we do not practice physical distancing at home,” Linda Jo says. “That makes it easier on them because they are less isolated. Many of the residents go for daily walks together and are a lot of support to each other. Many are in outpatient drug treatment and do their meetings and counseling via their phones and Zoom. A few work. Everyone washes their hands well when they enter the house.”
A Brigade of Mask Makers
In River Hills, a suburban neighborhood where many Servant Branch members live, a loose network of at least 10 branch women and some other neighbors have been making masks for family, friends, neighbors and various charitable causes, as well as swapping tips and supplies.
Adella Wacker (Servant Branch) responded to a Facebook request for masks from Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of nuns who run a care home for the elderly where Adella had worked for 20 years before retiring. Adella, Christine Brickweg and Kathy Coleman made masks for the residents and staff that helped fill their need until they were able to get commercial masks on back order.
Nadine Reinhardt (Servant Branch), who has a background in sewing professionally, has outfitted friends and family with masks and donated to a few different causes, for a total of over 100 masks. She had saved over 60 yards of quarter-inch elastic from a job she finished 10 years ago, not sure how she would ever use it. She says, “The Lord always provides. Who knew that today it would prove to be a precious, coveted gem? Two other ladies in my neighborhood have benefitted from my archive.”
Peg Daly’s (Servant Branch) corner of River Hills boasts a longstanding set of active friendships among neighbors. They’ve collaborated on crafting projects in the past, like making pillowcases for the Red Cross. Peg was able to swap with a neighbor—her elastic in exchange for fabric with birds on it—a strategy to get her 90-year-old bird-loving mother to wear a mask. “It’s been a really unifying thing for the neighborhood.”
Also, in Servant Branch, Carolyn Reinhardt saw on a neighborhood email chain that a man was offering fabric to anyone willing to make masks. Carolyn asked him if he would like her to make him a mask, and he said yes, so she did. This gave her the idea of offering to make masks for other neighbors. As she made each mask, she prayed for the person who would be wearing it, and she delivered them in Ziploc bags with a note explaining the washing instructions and saying that she’d prayed for the wearers. “I ended up making masks for a neighbor’s workplace, and he won a prize for one of them (definitely a first sewing prize for me, a novice seamstress)!"
Masks for Missionaries and Neighbors
Soon after news of the spread of COVID-19 reached Evansville, missionary and nurse Mary Timler anticipated that the missionaries might need face masks, especially if someone in the household got sick. She did some research into what mask design might work best for her household’s needs and budget, and found an easy one with ties that didn’t require elastic. Ellen Reed, an experienced sewer, helped get an assembly line going, and eventually took over the sewing.
The missionaries haven’t been visiting neighbors, but have been phoning them instead. That’s how some neighbors found out that Ellen was making masks, and a few have asked if she could make masks for them. Ellen was happy to oblige! In Allendale, Abby Earhart has used the pattern Mary found to make masks for a few neighbors there, too.
Masks Just in Time
In South Bend, Andrea Kane noticed a plea for masks from Our Lady of the Road, a ministry for the homeless run by the Catholic Worker. They needed masks for their clients, many of whom are in poor health. On the phone with her friend Lisa, who had served as a missionary in China for many years, Andrea heard that Lisa had received 100 face masks in the mail from their mutual friend Lily in China. Lily had served as a missionary with Lisa for many years.
Andrea says, “I asked Lisa, ‘What did you do with all those masks?’ She replied, ‘Well, they are sitting right here. Want some?’ ‘Yes! I know who really needs them,’” The next day Lisa dropped off a big stack of masks at Andrea’s house, and Andrea’s husband Paul took them down to Our Lady of the Road.
Masks of All Styles
In New Orleans, Liz Slattery made masks with the theme of the New Orleans Saints football team. In Mobile, Lydia Gaudet made masks with princesses, magic frogs and castles for a local children’s hospital, and then repurposed her son’s old U.S. Air Force uniforms as masks for her children and their spouses, 12 of whom have jobs as essential workers.