Mask making helps feed the hungry

–by Mary Helen Darah

Lynda Hoffman saw a need and sprung into action. “I heard local hospitals were in need of protective gear. Back in March when things were getting worse, I got a pattern for a headband and mask from an organization in Canada. They specifically said that you cannot sell or make money off their patterns. Everything must be 100 percent nonprofit. I started by leaving my sewn items at my neighbor’s door, who is a nurse, and one thing led to another,” recalled Hoffman.
Hoffman began making what she calls “COVID covers” and headbands for medical professionals in abundance as the need continued to grow. She then branched out to others in need of her items. Many thought Hoffman was a professional seamstress but, as she will tell you, she is a “work in progress.” “I’m not a professional seamstress by any means. It’s always been a hobby. I have made curtains and animals for kids. My grandmother however was a great seamstress. I loved that she was a part of this in a way. I used her elastic to make my first masks. I now purchase high quality, soft elastic along with fabric and thread to make a quality product.”
They say that behind every successful man there is a good woman (and a surprised mother-in-law). In this case, behind this woman on a mission, Hoffman has the support and talents of her husband, Ed. “My husband helps me with everything,” she stated. “Ed was a manager for Kroger and is very analytical and organized. He also cuts fabric, he keeps track of all our numbers and helps drop off donations and items. I just sew.”

The couple found a way to not only donate protective items but help those dealing with food insecurities. People have made donations for Hoffman’s items. The couple uses the funds to purchase food for Sylvania Area Family Services (SAFS) pantry as well as give the organization a check to purchase hygiene and nonperishable food items to help feed the ever-growing number of those in need. “So far, if people give me checks, I give them to Sylvania Area Family Services. We also purchase food for SAFS. Our first food delivery to SAFS was on April 21 of this year. So far we have donated checks totaling $3,335 to SAFS. If people give us cash, we use it to buy food. So far, we have purchased $4,489 worth of groceries. To date, I have made 2,093 masks, 176 headbands, and 12 surgical caps, which are tough to make. It takes me hours to make one of those suckers. That is a total of 2,281 items,” stated Hoffman.

The Hoffmans have donated masks and headbands to Five Lakes Church, employees of Sylvania School District, preschools and local hospitals. “ If someone tells me why they need our items, I am more than happy to help. I especially love helping kids. I can size masks so I can make them for children. They are hard to make but it is worth it to keep kids comfortable. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I also have helped men with larger faces and beards,” she explained.
The mask maker is obviously in favor of wearing masks and especially ones that are comfortable and well-made. “We have gone to places and seen people wearing horrible masks,” she said. “This big guy was wearing a little bandana. I wish he had one of my masks.”
The busy philanthropic couple plans to keep going as long as there is a need and they are able to acquire fabric. “We try to keep consistent with what we give the food pantry. We donate food items and $300 cash weekly. I think we have enough money saved back to make donations for four more weeks,” stated Hoffman.
The Hoffmans have enjoyed meeting people from a safe distance as well as online. They have had to deal with a few negative people but the abundance of grateful and supportive people keeps them going. The shared experience of helping others has been rewarding for the couple. “There have been weeks when the SAFS pantry is pretty bare. It is so nice to know we are making a difference. It is also nice to know that you can pass along love,” said Hoffman. “A coworker of mine at Lourdes University gave me a tote bag filled with all kinds of fabric from quilts her mom had made. She loved seeing it go to a worthy cause. It has been amazing to see how generous people have been. My neighbor gave me a whole jar of thread and someone gave me their button collection. Quality materials are expensive. Every little bit helps.”
Everything the couple has received they have given away. “I post every week on social media so people know what and where we have donated. We have a lofty goal. When we hit $10,000, we are going to celebrate. We have done more good than we ever thought possible.”

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