Mission to Make Masks
- June 17, 2020
- By Jan Ebbets
Sunny Windorski ’20 had intensely personal reasons for wanting to join the effort to make masks during the COVID-19 pandemic. Their mother, a nurse, experienced a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) every day on the job, yet even after working 12-hour shifts, still came home and sewed face masks for others in need.
So when Windorski, who spent March and April on campus, heard about the Crafting for Community initiative that was organized this spring by the Jandon Center for Community Engagement, they jumped at the chance to get involved. Using sewing machines and yards and yards of donated fabric, Windorski and other students and center staff spent their days creating masks.
“Given all that we’ve been seeing and that we all have the skills to do something, we really wanted to get involved and help fulfill the need for more PPE in our community,” Windorski said.
Expert sewing skills were by no means necessary; all mask makers were buoyed by the desire to fill a need. “We all have varying levels of sewing experience that complement each other and allow us to work really efficiently together,” said Windorski, referring to themself as well as fellow lead stitchers Oliver Haug ’20 and Cara Flores ’20.
The crafting initiative was spearheaded by Deborah Day, STEAM [science, technology, engineering, arts and math] coordinator at Smith, as a way to engage with the local community, which is at the core of the Jandon Center’s mission. “Early on in the pandemic, our Jandon Center team brainstormed ideas on how we plan to move forward, with emphasis on remaining connected with, and assisting, our current Jandon Center on- and off-campus community partners,” Day said.
Social distancing and other recommendations by the CDC and other federal agencies created new opportunities for the center to reach out to local businesses affected by the downturn in the local economy—including a local fabric store, Day said. Ultimately, Francesca DenHartog, owner of Valley Fabrics of Northampton, donated 45 yards of fabric toward the mask-making effort.
Originally, the Crafting for Community initiative, which was funded by an Innovation Challenge grant from President Kathleen McCartney, was intended to involve Smith students, campus partners and community members in collaborative opportunities to create handmade goods for underserved or disadvantaged populations or environmental organizations in the Pioneer Valley of western Massachusetts.
That idea took on new meaning once the COVID-19 crisis hit. “The idea of creating face masks as a layer of personal protection against the coronavirus seemed like a good fit, especially once the city of Northampton issued a mandatory order for face coverings,” Day explained.
Some 41 total mask makers volunteered their sewing skills for the project: seven students on campus and 12 students off campus along with 14 Smith employees and eight friends of the Jandon Center. By early May, the effort had resulted in about 550 masks with another 200 in the works for the city of Northampton. The campaign will continue as needed.
The project was a good experience for the students, Day noted, and some “were feeling a bit isolated and wanted to remain connected with the Smith community but weren’t sure how.”
The Jandon Center’s campus partners include Residence Life, Office of Student Engagement, Design Thinking Initiative and the Schacht Center for Health and Wellness.
This story appears in the Summer 2020 issue of the Smith Alumnae Quarterly.
A Semester Like No Other: How the class of 2020 left campus with a proper send-off.
Smith’s All-Hands Crisis Response: Entire campus community takes up an array of challenges presented by a dangerous pandemic.
Connection Out of Isolation: 12 voices collaborate on a poem for our time.
One Student: Studio art major Sophie Willard Van Sistine ’22 finds her niche writing comics.
Race for a Vaccine: Dr. Annie De Groot ’78 and her biotech firm are on the front line to stop COVID-19 in its tracks.
Virtual Togetherness: Quarantines fall away as Smith friends Zoom into one another’s living rooms.
Echoes of a Pandemic: From canceled classes to campus quarantines, effects of the 1918 Spanish flu ring familiar.
Finding the Funny: An improv comedian’s tips for staying sane in the pandemic.
How Can I Help? From online classes to concerts and community fundraisers, alumnae find creative ways to ease the burden of those in need.
Feeling Community Through My Window: Teresa Kábana ’92 sends a dispatch from Madrid.
The Morning Call That Never Came: Death of a parent in the age of COVID-19 carries an extra layer of grief.
Racialization of Infectious Disease: As viruses spread, so does discrimination against marginalized groups.
Dawn of a New Day: Faith leaders impart messages of hope, acceptance and belief in our collective power to work for a better world.
Student mask makers, from left, Oliver Haug, Sunny Windorski and Cara Flores, all class of 2020.