Making Masks, Protecting Community

As many members of the MBU family devote time during the coronavirus pandemic to making masks for healthcare workers, what used to be only a hobby or a sometimes-practiced skill has become a powerful tool to help slow the spread of COVID-19. In this fight, sewing can make a huge difference.

Faculty member Sheri Montgomery is making masks for her students, who are practicing occupational therapists working on the front lines of healthcare across the country.

A mother-daughter team of alumna Linda Newsom ’80 and Patricia Fogle, who is 84 years old, have made more than 75 masks from two layers of cotton fabric that they sourced from home. 

“My mom and I are both lifelong sewers,” said Newsom, a quilter who lives in Crofton, Md. “She made most of my clothes when I was young and taught me how to sew starting at the age of 9.”

Their connection through sewing is now especially poignant since Fogle’s retirement community in Pennsylvania is locked down, with no visitors in or out. Her masks have gone to the on-site nursing home and rehabilitation center, where, as far as they know, there are no cases of COVID-19. 

Newsom has donated masks to her local hospital and has made them for family and friends in need, and, as long as her supplies of elastic last, she plans to make more, as does her classmate Katie Pierson Colden ’80 and Amy Warren ’71, a retired teacher and host of the local Staunton-Augusta-Waynesboro Alumni Chapter book club.

“I do believe MBC instilled in all of us a desire to make the world a better place in any way we can,” Newsom said. “While I don’t see sewing as an impressive skill, it is one that allows me to help others in this time of need.” 

For Sheri Montgomery, associate professor in the online post-professional occupational therapy doctorate (PPOTD) program through MBU’s Murphy Deming College of Health Sciences, mask-making is a way to reach out to her students, who are practicing occupational therapists across the country.   

“I really just wanted to do something to support the students who I could tell were just so stressed, so out of their element,” she said. “I have been reaching out to the PPOTD students on a regular basis since this situation began because they are working practitioners who are often frontline healthcare providers. This was my small way of telling everyone that I am here for you, just let me help.” 

She sent masks to any of her students who wanted them, and many went to one working at the University of New York Hospital.

Like Newsom, Montgomery has been sewing for as long as she can remember. She used cotton leftovers from her quilting stash to make the masks, sandwiched around some interfacing for an added barrier. Innovating in a time of low supplies, she may try making ear-peices out of cut-up ace bandages. 

Defne “Dede” Kahraman is a first-year student and goalkeeper for the women’s soccer team. She’s making masks during breaks from online coursework and donating them to hospitals in the Dallas-area.

With students staying at home and finishing the academic year online, MBU first-year and goalkeeper for the women’s soccer team Defne “Dede” Kahraman is fitting in making masks as she pursues a history major at MBU. She’s donating them to the Methodist Health System hospitals in Dallas as well as Texas oncology. 

“We all together have made about 30 masks,” said Kahraman, who is originally from Isparta, Turkey. “It was something that we as a family could do to contribute to the growing crisis without having to leave the house.”