Mask-Making: Lakota Gives Back

Mask-Making: Lakota Gives Back
Posted on 04/21/2020
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mask making collage"Don your mask, don your cape." It’s a phrase we hear often from Dr. Amy Acton, Director of the Ohio Department of Health, about the heroic behavior of physical distancing. Masks can be hard to come by, but the Lakota community is stepping up in a big way to get face masks to those who need them.

Grace Russell, a fourth-grader at Freedom Elementary, is using her sewing skills to make face masks during the COVID-19 crisis.

She has made almost 50 masks to date, with a goal to make 100-150 in all. “The virus will go away quicker if you have the right gear,” said Grace, who started sewing when she was just seven years old. She likes making the masks to help others, and added with a laugh, “it also keeps me from going quarantine-crazy!”

Grace has made masks for family, friends, neighbors, and teachers. A Twitter post about her mask-making project even led to a homeless shelter in Cincinnati reaching out to ask if she could send 10 masks to them (which she did). That Twitter post proved to Grace that one simple act of kindness truly can inspire so many more. When the Madeira sewing studio Grace takes classes at found out she was making masks, they donated elastic and fabric – and challenged other students at the studio to make masks of their own. Their goal: 1000 masks!

Over at Lakota East, Principal Suzanna Davis heard that local fire stations needed masks. She asked Theater Director Kristen Hoch if the department had sewing machines or extra fabric to help in the effort. From there, Hoch reached out to East’s Backstage Booster parents to see if they would like to help. One of her students, Emma Holtel (who was already making masks) offered to coordinate an effort at the student level.

Now over 18 families are working directly on mask-making. Some are cutting fabric to start the masks, most are sewing, some are finishing the masks by adding nose pieces and elastic, and still others are delivering masks as they are finished.

In just the first two weeks, they donated 351 masks to Cincinnati Hospice and local fire stations, and they plan to continue making them as long as there is an urgent need in the community.

“We were just finishing up work on Pippin when in-person school ended,” said Hoch. “Months of work were kind of left hanging, and that can make people feel a little lost. So not only are we able to help others through this service project, but it has been a great way to bring our theater department together again.”

Ridge teacher Alexx Cook has been making masks as well; so far she has made 30 masks with another 40 in the works. “My mom also started sewing masks, so we have been video chatting about it and sharing progress and tips. It's been a nice way to connect and be able to help others.”

Cook added, “I am using my grandmother's old sewing machine, and it makes me think of her when I use it. She was a seamstress born in 1924, so she lived through her own share of hardships. I like to think that she would be proud to see her machine being used to help during this crisis.”