By Leah Sander
WARSAW — Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, many individuals have stepped up to make masks for those who might have trouble getting them.
Ann Sweet, of Warsaw, is one such person. In fact, she’s helped to provide 14,000 of them.
With the other members of her group, Pincushion Pals, Sweet has helped make the masks since last spring. They’ve distributed the masks to nursing homes, schools and elsewhere in the community.
Sweet started the mask-making process in March to help a friend that worked at Cardinal Services.
The project morphed and grew to the Pincushion Pals making them. Sweet said at one point there were 16-18 people sewing the masks.
Some of the seamstresses have gone to Florida for the winter, so right now there are six women sewing. They’re assisted by three people who cut the fabric.
Sweet says seamstresses make four-five masks an hour, depending on how fast they sew. The group makes both adult and child masks, plus ones for people with hearing aids.
Masks have gone all over the place in the county and beyond.
Pincushion Pals donated 2,000 to Warsaw Community Schools, 350 each to Wawasee and Whitko school corporations and 250 to Sacred Heart School, Warsaw. They also gave 200 to Grace Village Retirement Community, Winona Lake, and some to Timbercrest Senior Living Community, North Manchester.
The group also has given masks to the Department of Child Services, The Beaman Home of Warsaw, and Fellowship Missions, Warsaw. Every week, Sweet drops off about 100 masks at Warsaw-Wayne Fire Territory’s station across from Kroger for anyone in the community to get a mask.
Sweet said she’s “participated in any projects to help make life a little easier for the individuals and families of Warsaw/ Kosciusko County.”
“Organizing Pincushion Pals is based on the belief that a person’s life mission is to provide practical aid to others,” said Sweet. “My sewing machine is 55 years old and had only very minor use all those years – it is a workhorse now. I cannot send enough praise to those who participate in our mission – to supply community protection to our community by providing face coverings, free of charge, to those who wish to protect others but don’t have extra funds to purchase masks.”
She added that some of the women who have sewn are elderly and staying at home to protect themselves from the coronavirus.
“It gives them something to do, so they’re not so depressed,” she said.
The group has received support from Sweet’s church, Winona Lake Grace Brethren Church, where several of the other Pincushion Pals attend as well.
Sweet said they’ll continue to make masks until health experts no longer deem them necessary, which at this point may be in summer 2021.
The group’s received several donations for supplies. The K21 Health Foundation and Warsaw Breakfast Optimist Club each gave $500.
Those who would want to donate 100% cotton fabric or help sew themselves may do so by calling Sweet at 574-265-8225.