Threads of Caring

Posted on Apr 10, 2020

73-year-old Ellen Streich has a new project. A big one. 

She is busy making hundreds of protective masks for Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. There is method to her madness… 

“I’m doing everything assembly line-style,” says Streich, “so that I don’t have to keep going back and figuring things out all over again.” 

Step 1: Cut all of the pieces. 
Step 2: Sew all of the seams. 
Step 3: Put in all of the pleats. 
Step 4: Add all of the straps. 

It is not high art, but it is for a higher purpose…  

These masks are made of a special material being provided to volunteers by the hospital — a material that acts as a tough barrier to bacteria. They’ll be worn by patients, families and employees who are not providing direct clinical care. 

Before the pandemic, Streich could normally be found volunteering in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). She’d cuddle and rock the babies every other weekend, describing these encounters with tiny patients as her “Saturday night dates.” 

But the coronavirus has upended that joyful routine, at least for now. When Streich learned of the need for volunteers to sew masks, she didn’t hesitate.

“It helps me feel useful and connected to the hospital,” she says. “After all, these are my babies I’m helping!” 

Streich is not a professional seamstress — “not by any means” — she says. But she has enjoyed sewing through the years. She still remembers her very first experience in home economics class in high school. 

“We each sewed a dish towel, an apron and a box-pleated skirt.” 

She laughs when she thinks about it. But from the start, she loved the idea of taking something and turning it into something else — something beautiful or useful. 

That might be an apt description for the way this project is beginning to take shape. Streich is among a growing rank of volunteers with a sewing skillset and a heart for kids. 

Although she’s staying “safer at home,” she transcended the confines of her own sewing space by connecting the hospital with volunteer sewing groups who can make even more masks. Then she got online and spread the word to neighbors about the need for mask-makers. 

They told someone, and then they told someone, and, surely, that person will tell someone else… 

Stitch by stitch, weaving a tapestry of caring — for a time such as this. 

“Everybody just wants to feel safe and to be able to take care of the people that they love,” Streich says. “That’s what I hope and believe these masks will do.”

For information on how you can make and donate masks, please click on this link


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