Volunteering her time and sewing skills is not new to West Chicago resident Maria Fennewald who has been making Christmas stockings for soldiers for the past three years through Wayne Township’s Senior Center. When she heard about a need for masks to help in the fight of COVID-19, the former surgical nurse sprang into action.
Here is her story, which also involves other caring community members.
A posted call for help on the WeGo Community Helpers Facebook page, managed by People Made Visible co-founder Sara Phalen, caught the attention of Maria’s daughter Heidi Kuharich.
The message, which was posted on April 3, 2020 read:
Fabric masks needed: now that the CDC is most likely stating we all need to be wearing masks and fabric ones are the best way to ensure we don’t take vital surgical masks from health care providers, we are looking for anyone making fabric ones at home to donate to community distribution points. We are still working out the details, but if you are making masks and are willing to donate them to West Chicago residents please PM us or comment below. Thank you!
There was only one problem, and it was a big one, “I have no fabric!”, Maria told her daughter. The lack of fabric for the masks set in motion a chain of neighborhood communication, which resulted in a couple of bags of fabric arriving within a few hours from fellow-resident Becky Hall. Between that and a bunch of ribbon that Heidi provided from her craft stash, Maria got to work, assisted by her husband LeRoy who cut all the fabric to her specifications.
The collaborative efforts that epitomize the spirit of West Chicago, produced forty ready to wear masks that were delivered to WeGo Together for Kids, an organization that supports and enhances the health, safety and well-being of students and families of District 33, a few days later on April 9, 2020. Also donated were another eighteen masks made by community member Kris Zimmerman, who responded to the call on Facebook.
Additional fabric donated by Becky allowed Maria to produce a second batch of 100 masks that were picked up by Joie Frankovitch, Coordinator of Partnerships for WeGo Together for Kids. “We’re sending out 82 home deliveries tomorrow and packing the bags today, families will be so happy to see masks!”, said Frankovich, about the perfect timing of the masks. Maria has donated 300 masks to date, with her goal being 500.
Paying it forward
The mask story continued on Friday, April 24, 2020 with WeGo Together for Kids paying it forward. As manufactured supplies of masks have eased and become more accessible, the WeGo Together for Kids delivered a generous donation of 1,500 facemasks to the West Chicago Police Station. “This organization has been doing amazing things in our community to make sure families are not going without during this pandemic. Thank you for thinking of our officers,” read a message on the Police Facebook page.
Heroes come in many forms. During the COVID-19 pandemic, our country is seeing the faces of the courageous men and women on the frontline of the fight – medical workers, first responders, scientists, policy-makers and others – on our electronic screens daily.
However, many local heroes are popping up in their communities all across the world who are flying below the radar and doing amazing things for their fellow humans.
The City is attempting to capture some of the small acts of kindness, like the one above, that are so meaningful to others during this tough time. While these community members are not looking for recognition, it is encouraging, uplifting, and inspiring for us to know that there is such kindness during such uncertainty.
Please let us know of others who are making a difference and bringing hope of better days to come. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with their story. They will be posted on the Local Heroes page of the COVID-19 Communications Center.