Everyone at Kendal—staff and residents alike—now has a face mask. Many were sewed by a team of residents, and many others were provided by volunteers from the surrounding community.

The team of resident “sewists” was organized by Mary Alice James. (Judy Hinds came up with this creative name because, well, you know how “sewers” could be mispronounced.)

Mary Alice told me how this project came about. During the early days of the Covid/facemask discussion in the news, she was talking to Sarah Matas, our Health Center administrator, about another topic. She asked Sarah in passing if residents might sew masks for the healthcare staff. Sarah initially said no, since the medical staff providing direct resident care already had them.

But later, Sarah contacted Mary Alice with the idea that those on the administrative side of the health team could use masks. Mary Alice produced three samples, using different patterns she found on the web, and Sarah picked one of them.

Sarah said she could take care of getting the staff masks. But by this time, it was looking like almost everyone (including all residents in independent living) would need a mask. Could Mary Alice make the masks for residents, Sara wondered.   

Mary Alice gulped, knowing that hundreds of masks might be needed. She started contacting other members of the Kendal quilting group to see who might be interested in helping out. Ultimately, she got 13 people lined up to make masks. Once the word got out to the broader community, another 15 people expressed interest. Mary Alice started collecting fabric and elastic to get to the growing group of “sewists”.

Soon, masks were being produced in substantial numbers. The sewists gave them out to any neighbors who asked for them.

Meanwhile… Unbeknownst to Mary Alice, a parallel effort had begun. Lisa (our CEO) had spoken with Michele Berardi (Director of PR and Community Outreach for KCC), and Michele had started working with Stephanie Corey (Director of Philanthropy) on a project to deal with the many masks being offered to us by outside groups with whom Michele had been in touch. The goal was to secure enough masks for all residents at Kendal, Crosslands, Conniston, and Cartmel.  

Susanna Davison, in her role as president-elect of the Kendal Residents Association, was at a meeting with Lisa at which she learned of the Michele-led mask effort. She mentioned that she was already aware of the work of Mary Alice’s mask-making team.

Susanna was asked to determine how many more masks would be needed at Kendal, and for that information she turned to Rex du Pont. By this time, Rex had established the network of 11 Kendal neighborhoods, and he asked the leaders of those neighborhoods to find out how many of their residents still needed masks.

Some neighborhoods had already supplied the needed masks on their own. In “Neighborhood 8” (near parking lot 12), Carolyn Gibson reports that Susan Beach was able to donate cloth from her quilting stash, from which Carolyn made seven masks and distributed them to neighbors. That was as many as that particular neighborhood required. Similarly, “Neighborhood 9” (near the “Lake District”) had already obtained the masks it needed.

It turned out that about 200 of the 315 people in independent living still needed masks. From Rex’ data, Susanna compiled a list of those without masks, and Michele’s team made sure they got distributed through the regular mail delivery to each cottage.

Mary Alice notes that, if you would like another mask because you lose one or because yours doesn’t fit well, she still has a bag of masks of various sizes and styles. Just let her know what you need.