Serving by Sewing

By Rachel Greco

May 14 UPDATE:  The team of seamstresses sewing face masks have made approximately 1,632 masks that have been distributed to healthcare workers, the JAARS community, and others. They’ve now expanded the project to include making ear-saving headbands and surgical gowns.


What other use can a bread twisty have besides closing bread bags? It can be inserted into a homemade virus-protection face mask so it fits better around the wearer’s nose!

JAARS has thus far* organized a group of 28 people—including both people involved with JAARS and people from the community—to sew masks. Another group cuts fabric, binding, and elastic to make up sewing kits, as well as providing sewing machines to volunteers who need them. Others are serving by putting the sewing kits together and delivering them to people who can’t pick them up.

Shelley Boomhower and a team of ladies are sewing like mad. She puts mask “kits” together with materials and delivers them to their homes. The group has been putting the miles on their sewing machines since March 27.

The efforts of these groups have already provided 239* JAARS people with masks and distributed 100 masks to Atrium Health Union, an acute-care hospital, in Monroe, North Carolina. With each distribution, the team includes cards that not only explain how to use the masks, but also inform the receivers about reading the Bible.

Kits include all the materials needed to make 10 masks: Fabric, washed, cut to size and serged, elastic binding, folded and pressed, and wire for the nose piece.

Shelley Boomhower, one of the organizers, says, “I am humbled and inspired by all that [these people] are doing to help our community to stay safe and end this virus. They are already making a huge impact.”

Only God could have orchestrated and brought so many diverse people together to reach out to our neighbors. Mary McLendon, another organizer of this project, explains, “When God does something, he’ll touch people in many places.” These people may not know they are thinking the same things and doing the same things. But then they realize: “There are other people doing this. Let’s work together.”

Mary McLendon models one of the masks that our team of seamstresses is making.

Mary had been working with another woman to build the community of JAARS and contribute to the larger community. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was on Mary’s heart since she has a nursing background and a daughter who’s a nurse in an ICU unit. She saw the need for masks in case the local hospitals run out.

When Mary and Shelley took a walk around their neighborhood, Mary learned Shelley was already sewing masks. After a few emails and virtual meetings with various people at JAARS, Shelley contacted her quilting group about sewing masks, and the project expanded.

Shelley and the other sewers use a mask pattern that Atrium had shared. They’re encouraging people to use quilting fabric since it has a tight weave. They also include some kind of elastic—Mary used hair bands because it’s what she had—to put over the ears. A wire at the top creates a tight seal around the face, and a pocket on the inside enables the wearer to add extra protection such as a coffee filter or another mask.

Who is that masked couple? That’s Diane and Dan Boone delivering 100 masks made by seamstresses in the JAARS community to Atrium Health Union in Monroe, NC.

According to Shelley, “Atrium had initially said these masks would be used over their professional masks as the need arises and they were preparing for future shortages.” The other requests for the masks come from health facilities, medical practices, fire stations, senior citizen facilities, and some individual families with high-risk family members.

The women also organized a donation drop-off for clean unopened hand sanitizer, hand wipes, and other essential health care items.

A “drive by” collection at JAARS yielded three bags of donated PPE to be taken to a collection site for Novant.

“It is hard to know how far this [project] will go,” Shelley says, “but it is heartening to see the community at large come together to help level off this virus.  People are eager to be part of a solution.”

Want to help be part of the solution? Contact Shelley at to learn more.

*At the time of writing this article.