Stretched financially and emotionally by the pandemic, Smithie small-business owners summon their powers of resilience and vow to pull through, even in the face of limited government support, confusing rules and clumsy regulations.
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Mission to Make Masks
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.