A couple of weeks ago, Anne Hall and her daughter, Courtney, were discussing some of the COVID-19-related posts they had seen on social media.
While they were inspired by many examples of communities coming together, they also felt an overwhelming sense of helplessness.
“There are so many jobs impacted and it’s very upsetting,” Anne said, “People want to help but they just don’t know what to do.”
Courtney mentioned how she loves to sew. She picked up the hobby a few years ago and has since made pillows for friends.
However, as a busy sophomore at Van Alstyne High School, she typically doesn’t have much time to ply her craft. Now, she realized that she might be able to put her skills to good use.
The teen consulted Pinterest for instructions and then posted on the Van Alstyne Community Facebook page that she would be willing to make masks for those who needed them.
“My husband and I were blessed that our jobs were untouched, and I thought this would be a great thing for (Courtney) to get involved and give back to the community,” Anne said. “She was very eager to do it.”
Her first mask took around 20 minutes to complete. Now she can finish one in about five minutes.
Fabric designs have included children’s characters, trolls, the Dallas Cowboys and camouflage. Her biggest challenge now is remembering how to fold the fabric correctly.
“I still do school (lessons) in the morning, but luckily, I do pretty good in school so I can finish it up quickly,” she said. “Then I can work on the masks.”
That work takes her well into the night, sometimes until 4 a.m. Her bed doubles as a workstation. On it is an array of fabrics and sewing tools, as well as the sewing machine and an ironing board.
Her dog, a Great Dane named Willow, likes to snuggle up sometimes for a front-row view of the action.
“If you look in her bedroom, it’s like a war zone now,” Anne says.
Courtney gets her most of her materials from Walmart. She sometimes uses ribbons for the masks straps since elastic is often hard to find. However, that is not an ideal design.
In response, family friends and co-workers who have elastic have donated their supplies to help the teen’s efforts.
Initially, Courtney received requests to make eight masks. She has now completed more than 110 masks and has pending orders for nearly 100 more.
In addition to individual families, she’s received requests from day care providers, post office employees, EMTs and even doctors’ offices.
Healthcare professionals have told her that they like wearing clean cloth masks over their medical masks that they now reuse multiple times due to supply shortages.
In order to adhere to social-distancing guidelines, Courtney leaves the finished masks on her porch in plastic bags for people to pick up.
Although she is donating the masks free of charge, some recipients have insisted on paying her for them.
One woman, who was dealing with financial hardships, offered rolls of toilet paper or colored hair ties in exchange for the masks. Courtney politely declined.
Others have left cash when they picked up their masks. Courtney used the unsolicited funds to purchase more mask-making materials.
“I think what I’m most proud of is that she loves to do it and does not expect anything in return,” Anne said.