Answering the call
When Deaconess Health System asked the community to sew masks for its healthcare workers facing the possibility of a limited supply, Amy Burkett ’12 answered the call—quickly. “Basically, anybody who knew me tagged me in all of the [social media] posts, and I was like,"‘Oh, I should probably get started,’" says Burkett.
The middle school special education teacher and owner of Herding Cats Creations and Quilting in Mt. Vernon, Indiana, grabbed her supplies and recruited her mom, Trudy Moye, and her five-year-old daughter, Jolene. “[My mom] did the base part for me, and then I went ahead and put the tucks in them and attached the elastic [that Jolene cut], so we made a great team,” Burkett explains.
With three generations crafting for a cause, Burkett says each mask took about five minutes to produce.
A respiratory therapist at Deaconess claimed their first batch—packaged and ready for pick up on the front porch. Several Deaconess nurses stopped by to get what they needed. And additional masks went to nursing homes in Evansville, New Harmony and Mt. Vernon. Around 300 in all.
“I had people offer to pay—and everything was a donation, no money was accepted—I had people offer fresh eggs, I had people offer to go pick me up groceries on their way. Everyone was just so appreciative and so kind,” says Burkett.
Using her talents to benefit others is nothing new for the veteran seamstress. Last fall she started a sewing club at Mt. Vernon Junior High School to teach students how to make quilts that are donated to local hospitals.
“I think of the past generations who gave up everything they had to help in times of need. My grandmother lived through the Depression, and they did everything they could. It’s not wartime, but it’s a war against the health of everyone. If this is all that I could do, since I get to stay home, then this is what I felt compelled to do.”
Sharri Herriott, administrative associate with the USI Foundation, experienced a similar calling after learning about the need for handmade masks. She reached out to Burkett, a longtime quilting friend, with some initial questions and set a goal to make a dozen masks a day.
Now when her remote workday ends, she scoots a table and some fabric in front of the tv and starts cutting. “All those scraps that I have are becoming useful,” she says. “I try to do a variety and make them very colorful and pretty. It just makes it a little bit nicer to wear [a mask] that’s got some bright flowers on it rather than a plain white face mask.”
Some of her masks are even staying in the USI family. Sherry Tynes, information systems associate, was grateful to pick some up for her daughter, a patient care technician at Deaconess Gateway. “I think it’s great that Sharri has taken this on to help out the health industry,” says Tynes. “As a mom, it is good to know that my daughter will have her own mask to protect her.”
Herriott learned the basics of sewing in high school and finetuned her skills through additional classes when her children were young, allowing her to save money by making her own curtains and rugs. She never imagined her expertise would one day have the potential to save lives. “I just think, in this time, that we all need to band together, and we need to do what we can. This is just one way that I can help,” she says.
Know a Screagle who is helping others during the COVID-19 pandemic? Let us know by emailing University Communications.