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Church crafters sew, give away face masks

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    Ada Castle works at her sewing machine. Photos courtesy of First Presbyterian Church of Elgin
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Daniel Smith works on sewing a mask.
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    Dolores Johnson shows off a couple of the face masks.
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    Some of the many masks that the group from First Presbyterian Church have made.

Doing their part to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, a sewing group from First Presbyterian Church of Elgin has been working to make and distribute hundreds of free masks to community members, local organizations and hospitals as far away as Lubbock and Los Angeles.

As of last week, the group had made and given out a total of 1,791 masks to friends, family members and various organizations across Texas and even in other states. In total, they have made and given away 345 masks to the friends and family members of First Presbyterian Church members.

Sally Daniel, a deacon at First Presbyterian Church, said their work has spread by word of mouth: a church member who works at the Walmart in Manor, the front desk staff at a cancer center in Fort Worth, an addiction clinic in Canyon Lake, Texas. Local organizations had a need, too, such as Advocacy Outreach, the Elgin Community Cupboard and the Elgin Headstart and the daycare in Elgin.

Their first big request, according to Ada Castle, one of the ruling elders of the church, was the Michale E. Keeling Center for Comparative Medicine and Research, a part of the MD Anderson Cancer Center located near Camp Swift; they ended up sending 240 masks to the facility. They have also provided 236 masks to Elgin ISD and 110 masks to the Travis County Sheriff’s Office.

Daniel, who had had to balance a full-time job along with mask-making, said the effort first started to help protect her family and friends. She and a number of friends from the church, including Castle and Claudia Smith, would often gather to sew together. When the pandemic began, Daniel started by making masks to mail to her sister. Then, in March before the lockdowns took place, Castle and Smith visited Daniel and began working on masks.

“Then, once it started snowballing and finding out all of these groups that had no place to go, … we just kind of felt led to help,” Daniel said.

They enlisted three other women in the church to help them cut fabric and sew masks. Castle works as the coordinator of the group, and she gets packages ready to mail. Daniel supplies the fabric for the masks from the remnants of her quilting.

“It was an assembly line, essentially,” Daniel said.

Castle said mask-making is a way she could help her community and support those working on the front lines during the pandemic while staying safe at home.

“It was important for me, as a Christian, to do what I can to help my fellow man and my community,” Castle said.

Daniel’s family is full of school teachers, as well as college students, she said, and many of her family members have asked her to make masks for them to prepare for the upcoming school year.

“I fear that when the schools open again on campus, that there’s going to be a surge of people asking or needing and can’t get them all of a sudden,” Daniel said. “I hope that’s not the case.”

“If it is, we’ll be ready,” Castle added.

Now that masks are more widely available, requests have slowed down considerably. Castle said she has recently put her sewing machine away for now, but is ready and willing to start sewing again if needed.

“It’s been surreal and sad,” Daniel said.

“But it’s been a blessing to be able to do this, and to know that we’re helping,” Castle added.