When Angela Nichols got word from her employer, Geisinger Medical Group, that the Eye Institute was in need of masks, she was quick to call on seamstresses in the community for help. But she was shocked to see how fast they began to supply the overwhelming need.
“I need to have a mission,” Nichols said. “I knew people who would help and I just felt like that was enough to get me moving. People need to be taken care of.”
The need for masks soon extended beyond just those in health care. Nichols is a long-time member of the Pajama Factory community, where many artists tend to congregate. She quickly realized it was important to get everyone organized so they could connect with the people who needed masks the most.
She founded the Facebook group Thread the Needle to do just that. It started with about 10 people and quickly grew from there, with local and national orders being filled.
The first person Nichols reached out to was Nina Riggle, a local quilter and meditation expert.
Riggle said she received 150 orders on the first day. In the first week, she put aside all of her other work and spent 70 hours making masks.
“My poor daughter didn’t get homeschooled that week, but it was OK because the cause was behind it,” Riggle said, adding that the next week she made sure to take some time for herself so that she didn’t get burned out too early.
Watching people come together and fill the need that seemed to grow more and more every day was very encouraging for Nichols and Riggle, but it was also daunting.
Riggles made her first 400 masks with donated material and gave them away for free. But soon she had to decide how she could keep helping the community while also supporting her own business. Since she began to dip into her own supplies, she decided to offer a buy-one-get-one deal, hoping to still keep the masks affordable.
If she receives more donated material she said she will be able to give away the masks for free.
“It’s really beautiful to see everyone stepping up to support each other,” Riggle said.
When Nichols first asked Riggle for masks she was shocked that the first order was ready in just six hours.
Organizations such as the YWCA, elder care facilities, Aids Resources and Sojourner Truth Ministries have been among the many groups to which Riggle has provided masks. But she isn’t the only one making masks.
People throughout the community are pitching in. Some may simply make 10 or 20 masks for friends and family while others may have the ability to do more. Chances are, most people know someone who is making masks right now, Riggle said.
But for her, it’s not about comparing who is doing the most, it’s simply important to do the best you can to help those in need, and be confident that “it’s all enough.”
It’s unclear how long the Facebook group will be active, or how many more masks will need to be made, but Nichols is hopeful that even after all the orders are filled, the connections made through the group will last for a long time into the future.