Making Masks to Save Lives

Katie+Schulte+and+her+sister+have+started+Cindy+COVID+Relief.+%28Courtesy+of+Katie+Schulte+for+The+Fordham+Ram%29

Katie Schulte and her sister have started Cindy COVID Relief. (Courtesy of Katie Schulte for The Fordham Ram)

Katie Schulte, Contributing Writer

The most exciting part of my weeks has been going to the grocery store and being surprised to find toilet paper. But I needed more than that. With a job on hold because of coronavirus and more open time at home, I was bored out of my mind and running out of shows on my list. 

For my family, this crisis is close to home. My mother has been a cardiac nurse for over 20 years in our community. My grandmother works at the desks on the same cardiac floor. I feel for all of the healthcare workers and the other essential workers that are at the front lines of this crisis. 

Seeing videos from big cities of people clapping from balconies during shift changes brings memories from when I was younger and my mom had to leave for the night shift, when I would give her a huge hug goodbye. Now that would be impossible, with nurses and doctors having to social distance from their own kids, many of the latter too young to possibly understand what is going on. 

Right now, I’m fortunate enough that my mom is not in the hospitals, but my grandmother is. Unfortunately, she was moved to work in the COVID-19 unit, despite being in an age group at risk. My three younger sisters and I are very close to her, but now we can only visit from her driveway where she stands six feet apart from us. The “social distance hugs” we do just aren’t the same. 

I know the bravery that healthcare workers have in fighting this disease, but I can’t help feeling scared. While I sit home doing nothing (which is important for social distancing, admittedly) I feel like there must be something more I can do as so many of my own loved ones are. With the Cuomos, the president, Gov. Mike Dewine (OH), Dr. Amy Acton (director of the Ohio Health Department), Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci on repeat, I felt so useless. But then came the rise of cloth masks. 

For me, I couldn’t force myself to get a new hobby — I tried painting and that lasted for about three days. But I could throw myself back into an old one. 

When I was eight, I was absolutely certain that I was going to be a fashion designer that lived in New York City. I had every sketch pad from Project Runway, and I made “magazines” called “KS Designs” (most creative thing done with initials since someone monogrammed a Vera Bradley, I know) of my outfits, which were just cutouts glued onto colorful construction paper. My grandma taught me how to sew, and soon enough I was making the hottest fits for all of my American Girl dolls. I also specialized in pencil bags and totes. 

Though this phase ended a while ago, I’ve gotten back into sewing again. After exactly a month of being home, my mom gave one of my sisters and I an idea. She told us that people were sewing masks for healthcare workers, and from there, Cincy COVID Relief was made. 

On March 31, I ordered a sewing machine and a few yards of fabric from JoAnn while my sister, Claire, started reaching out to people in our community we could give to. As of right now, we are working with two hospitals, a nursing home and a shelter for people experiencing homelessness in our hometown of Cincinnati. If you or someone you know in Cincinnati needs help, we are collecting masks, other PPE and cleaning supplies, as well as food donations. You can email us at cincycovidrelief@gmail.com or follow our Instagram @cincycovidrelief. 

This organization was made for all the parents who can’t hug their kids, the grandkids that worry about their grandma, the nurses and doctors without a mask, the people who can’t put food on the table anymore and those who have lost a loved one. It’s for everyone in our community hurting right now. We can only get through this together. 

So, if you can sew, you might not be America’s next hottest fashion designer. But hey, you could save a life.