When the idea was conceived at a Zoom meeting of the board members of Friends for Life at 5 p.m. on a Friday, some doubted that it could be done. It was a totally unrealistic idea.
How could 250 cotton facemasks be made within a week to distribute before Easter to the residents and staff of Life’s Garden senior housing complex in Sunnyvale? Who could even sew? Elastic was in short supply. Fabric stores were closed, and online orders backlogged. It would take a miracle.
“I personally didn’t believe it could happen,” later admitted one board member.
The concern was valid. Friends for Life is a small volunteer group. Its mission is to support the residents of Life’s Garden, a senior housing complex established in 1976 through the efforts of Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church.
Yet, ask and ye shall receive.
Friends for Life board president Julie McAfee emailed a plea for help to its volunteers and other groups within the church. And, by Saturday, sewing machines had already begun to whir as novice mask makers took up the challenge.
They pulled old sewing machines out of storage. They scrounged elastic and shared fabrics. They exchanged mask patterns and sewing tips via email. They shared progress photos and gave pep talks.
In Cupertino, mask maker Mike Shantz said that he was older than his portable, 1948 Singer Featherlight 201.
In Los Altos, Life’s Garden Inc. board president Bobbie Hubbard sewed on a 1958 Singer 404 that belonged to either her husband’s grandmother or great grandmother.
“It’s a work horse but let me down [one] day when the thread kept jamming,” said Hubbard.
In Santa Clara, Leanne Wiese’s Singer steelhead Rocketeer was an eighth-grade graduation gift. She has made everything from school wardrobes and bridesmaid dresses to curtains on it.
“Now I can add masks for COVID-19 protection,” said Wiese.
By Good Friday, April 10, the intrepid sewers had surpassed their goal of 250 masks. They dropped off 378 masks made with love on McAfee’s Los Altos doorstep — enough to distribute to Life’s Garden and two other senior facilities.
“It is astonishing to realize what each person’s talents put together was able to accomplish,” said Wiese. “I loved being part of this group and watching each person’s ideas, suggestions and contributions ripple through the group to inspire, motivate and achieve something none of us could have done by ourselves in such a few days. What a team.”
“Sewing the masks gave me a sense of happiness that I never felt before,” said Sunnyvale resident Kathleen Flores, who borrowed a machine. “It was so meaningful.”
“What has been accomplished is a miracle,” said the once skeptical board member.
“So many put aside their own needs to make what has happened a reality. [They] are all earthly angels and messengers of God.”
“This is the most meaningful Easter weekend I’ve ever had,” said McAfee. “Jesus’s life on earth was about showing us how to love one another. Everyone demonstrated that in the most profound way.”