Sew many masks

By Stephanie Holinka

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Volunteers make masks and accessories for essential workers, community members

mask on sewing machine
GIVING BACK — Sandia business manager Lilia Garcia makes masks as a way to give back to the community and to the people who have helped her during the pandemic. (Photo by Lilia Garcia)

In between Skype meetings and other daily work, many employees at Sandia’s Albuquerque campus are helping the community with homemade masks at a time when personal protective equipment is in short supply and reserved primarily for medical staff. Some of the many volunteers have shared a little about who they are making masks for and what made them decide to step up and help.

Technical writer Laura Sowko sews masks for the Albuquerque Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

“I decided to do this because I know that PPE may be difficult to come by and so many people need masks. It not only feels good to contribute masks, but each is also an act of love and hope,” Laura said. “Plus, I enjoy sewing; it’s a nice way to spend time rather than worrying about things I cannot change.”

Business manager Lilia Garcia is helping some local quilting stores provide masks to support New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s request for masks for first responders like police, fire and medical personnel.

“I have underlying conditions with a lowered immune system. I cannot go out to get groceries, etc., and my friends and family have been amazing, calling me when they are in the store and getting me what I need,” she said. “Making masks for family and friends and first responders is all I can do for those who do so much for me. These are hard times for everyone. We need to help each other to get through it. This is all I can do to help at the moment.”

Technologist Rose Torres makes masks for doctors and nurses who need fabric masks.

“It’s important to help out where you can. I love to sew and there is a need for masks, so I started sewing. I want to make as many as I can and donate them so medical personnel can get the masks that they need, for free,” Rose said.

homemade masks
MEETING A NEED — Sandia compensation specialist Denise D. Padilla, who started making masks for family and friends, saw demand grow when her daughter and a friend posted a thank you on Facebook. Denise estimates that she has made more than 350 masks for organizations and people in the community to date. (Photo by Denise D. Padilla)

Systems engineer Lisa Miller sews masks for the Albuquerque Children Youth and Family Department. The CYFD is distributing masks to the Navajo Nation and other organizations. Lisa has made about 150 masks and said CYFD has collected more than 3,000 masks from businesses and other volunteer mask makers.

“I think it’s important for all of us to pull together to help each other, especially right now,” Lisa said.

Information technology specialist Janell Marker said her community is sewing masks for healthcare workers in various parts of the country. She volunteered to write notes to the healthcare workers who receive the masks, thanking them for what they are doing right now. Janell’s community has sent masks and thank you notes to several hospitals, and they plan to continue making and sending more.

“I feel so fortunate to be able to work from the safety and comfort of my home while these brave folks are on the front lines, fighting this COVID-19 enemy. They are the true heroes and heroines of our day,” she said.

Compensation specialist Denise D. Padilla is making masks for Casa Angelica, the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Department, University of New Mexico Hospital and Presbyterian Hospital, as well as a few banks and credit unions.

“My daughter’s friend, an RN (registered nurse) at Presbyterian Hospital, saw a pattern for mask-making, forwarded it to me, and asked if I could make some masks for them,” Denise said. “My daughter and her friend posted a thank you on Facebook, and I started getting many requests from there. Strangers were contacting me, asking me if I could make them masks. I have lost count, but I think I have donated over 350 masks.”

people wearing mask clips
COMMUNITY SUPPORT — Sandia information assurance specialist Jeremy Steen is 3D printing face-mask clips, which make wearing a mask more comfortable. He has donated clips to many organizations and people in Albuquerque, as well as Florida and Indiana. (Photos by Jeremy Steen)

Information assurance specialist Jeremy Steen is 3D printing face-mask clips, which make wearing a mask more comfortable. Jeremy has family members in the medical field and working as essential personnel, and he has a high-risk spouse. He has provided the clips to many organizations, including UNM and Lovelace hospitals, Comfort Dental, the U.S. Army Air Force Base Exchange on Kirtland Air Force Base and local Walmart and Dion’s Pizza locations. He also has donated masks to individuals, including grocery delivery workers, local families and nurses in Florida and Indiana.

“We help because it is the right thing to do. It takes a community to take care of a community. Not everyone is able to stay home and stay safe,” Jeremy said.