by Mike Achoki
Special to The Leaven
OLATHE — At the onset of COVID-19, a surge in demand for personal protective equipment created a shortage for much- needed masks in the Kansas City area and beyond.
Armed with a stash of fabric and sewing equipment in her apartment at Santa Marta senior living community in Olathe, Lori Dalton stepped up to make masks for her fellow residents. Anyone in need of a facial covering was welcome to simply give Dalton a call and she would gladly get to work.
“I believe it’s our duty to be there for our friends and neighbors during difficult times like these,” said Dalton, who has been quilting recreationally for four decades and loves having something to do while strictly hunkered down indoors.
“It’s really nice to have an outlet for creativity that also helps people,” she said. “It’s an enjoyable way to pass the time during lockdown.”
Likewise, fellow Santa Marta resident Teresa Sheehy had the bright idea to use her love of working with fabrics for the benefit of others. Sheehy, who has been sewing since her preteen years, also kick-started her own mask-making operation, using supplies she already had on hand.
“I’ve been a seamstress all my life, so I didn’t think twice about making masks,” said Sheehy, one of the very first residents of Santa Marta when the community first opened its doors in 2008.
“At this time, there wasn’t a need just at our community, but across the country,” she added. “The people I’ve been able to help really appreciate it, and I’m honored to make a difference.”
Both Dalton and Sheehy are uncompromising about their craft, and no face covering is complete until the design meets their high standards. They have each independently made and delivered around 50 masks so far, with more to come. Their creations are sealed and sanitized before being delivered into recipients’ mailboxes.
“Many people have shared that they’re the most comfortable masks they’ve worn,” said Sheehy. “I’m really particular about the materials I use.”
According to Santa Marta executive director Chet Surmaczewicz, the mask-making initiative has been an uplifting presence at the community during the pandemic.
“While we’re not able to physically be there for each other,” said Surmaczewicz, “Lori and Teresa show that we can continue to support people in our neighborhoods and communities from afar.
“We’re incredibly fortunate to have such caring and thoughtful residents at Santa Marta. These acts of kindness exemplify what we uphold as a Catholic institution that believes in and encourages giving back.”
“We’re all looking forward to when this all passes,” said Dalton. “But for now, I’m just happy I’m able to help in any way I can.”