To mask or not to mask? After weeks of mixed messages, we have the answer – face masks are recommended in a fight against coronavirus. As much as it seems unreal in today’s world of science and technology, COVID -19 is forcing us to scramble for ways to survive. We have no ammunition to stop this enemy, and the vaccine is months away. In this scenario, any help matters. For the majority of us, it simply means staying home to minimize the spread. But some are answering the challenge in more productive ways. There is no glamour in their action, just hard work and devotion. You do not need to look far for examples. Learn how Clarks Summit’s business owner, Jolanta Kaczmarczyk of Needle and Thread, is doing her part to fight the battle.

From the beginning of the outbreak of coronavirus in the USA, the shortage of medical-grade masks was apparent, and the current outlook does not promise significant changes any time soon. Unfortunately, even with the best intentions, these masks cannot be produced by mobilizing DIY projects.

Still, a lot can be done to help. Lower-grade or homemade masks are being used at many hospitals in non-COVID-19 cases to free up medical-grade masks for doctors and nurses treating COVID-19 patients. According to the recent guideline by the Centers for Disease Control, these masks are also proven to be helpful against spreading the coronavirus among the general public. To put it simply, there are better than nothing.

A stash of masks to be donated by Jolanta Kaczmarczyk of Needle and Tread.

Here is my interview with Jolanta Kaczmarczyk, my dear friend of 32 years and the owner of the alteration business Needle & Thread, located in Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. The interview was contacted via email, even though we are eager to see each other.

We met as young immigrants from Poland to the Scranton area in 1987, and since then, our friendship flourished. In our wildest dreams, we did not imagine having this kind of conversation.

How long are you in the business of alteration? 

7 years

From knowing you as my friend, I understand that spring is one of the busiest seasons for your business. Tell me why.

Yes, spring is the best time for my business. People need alterations for weddings, proms, graduations, dance rehearsals, first communions, etc. Currently, most of these events are canceled or postponed.

Your shop is not considered essential. How did that influence your operations and earning?

I have no income coming in. At first, I was staying home trying to adjust to a new situation, but then I questioned myself how I could help. I thought I could make a difference by making face masks.

I remember that in our conversation a few weeks ago, you expressed your desire to make masks. What was holding you from taking that step?

I knew I could not make medical-grade masks, but I thought I could make a difference by sewing cloth masks, even though at that time they were not recommended. I started making them with one thought, they must be better than nothing. Just logically, any barrier helps.

Did the current guidelines recommending wearing masks give you a needed push, or were you already making them before?

I started making masks before the current guidelines. I was aiming to donate them to the area hospitals.

How did you learn to make masks?

From Youtube, of course!

Do you have all the needed material, or do you have to go and buy new supplies?

I ran out of what I had. I need to buy new supplies now.

What kind of fabric do you think is the best to use for face masks?

I follow the general advice I found on the internet: Making your own face mask? Some fabrics work better than others.

When you started making masks, did you know where they would go?

I did not, but I knew I would find a place to donate them.

Where do your masks go?

I am donating them to Geisinger Community Center in Scranton, Dedicated Nursing Associates, Inc., and Nurse Family Partnership. All donations are accepted with great appreciation.

When going out in our area, are you going to wear one of your masks, and why?

Absolutely! This is not a time to be concerned with the looks or what others may think. This is a responsible thing to do. Everyone should wear some kind of protection to help to stop the spread of the virus.

Would you be able to make more masks if needed?

Yes. I am getting faster in making them.

Are you thinking of possibly sewing protective gowns for hospital workes?

I am thinking about it, but it is a more difficult task. I do not know what fabrics are recommended. Also, it would require a substantial investment on my part. I cannot afford it. Still, I would gladly donate the labor part. Anything that helps.

What is the hardest part for you as far as social distancing goes?

Staying home with my husband 24/7! But seriously, not being able to see my family and friends. I can’t wait to go back to the regular routine.

Do you have any tips for those you want to make their own masks?

Yes. Try to make a mask with an opening. You can insert a coffee filter for extra protection.

It is exactly one year since we took our fun trip to Santorini, Greece. When this is all over, where would you like to go on the next girls’ trip?

With you? Anywhere! Our trips are always amazing!

Jolanta Kaczmarczyk posing for a picture during our girls’ trip to Santorini, Greece, a year ago.

Thank you, Jolanta, for your devotion to our community! Hope to see you soon! I can’t wait to share a glass of wine with you.

Do you want to make a difference too? Learn how to make masks and where to donate them.

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