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Veteran Calgary seamstress makes protective masks during pandemic: ‘She’s a queen’

Maria Gal with some of the more than 400 protective masks she's sewn during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Maria Gal with some of the more than 400 protective masks she's sewn during the COVID-19 pandemic. Gil Tucker/Global News

Finding and acquiring a good face mask during the COVID-19 pandemic can be a challenge these days.

Some Calgarians are now getting some great help from a woman following her life-long passion.

Maria Gal, a resident of a seniors’ apartment building, is a retired seamstress. It’s a field she’s been working in since she was 16.

READ MORE: Calgary Cares: Mask Makers YYC sews thousands of cloth masks for essential workers

“She loves sewing,” Gal’s daughter Gabriela Gordos said. “Now that she’s retired, she’s looking for projects and this was a perfect project.”

The project in question is Gal’s efforts to sew cloth masks to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.

“I would like to help people,” Gal said.

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READ MORE: COVID 19: University of Lethbridge professors’ 3D-printed masks go beyond city’s borders

Gal started off by making masks for her immediate family and for fellow members of her Hungarian church and then began making them for others.

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“She makes them for all our friends and relatives,” Gordos said. “She’s putting them in bags and throwing them off her balcony so that people don’t come into the building.”

Gal also began making masks for every tenant in her building, Grace Manor, in Calgary’s Beltline neighbourhood, as well as for residents of a nearby seniors’ apartment building, Grace Gardens.

READ MORE: Coronavirus masks: Do you actually need to wear one?

Gal has also sewn masks for members of tenants’ families, including one for Louise Barnes’ son.

“Oh, he was thrilled,” Barnes said. “He’s happier than a pig in poop, wears it all the time, so I was really happy that I was able to help him.”

Gal’s efforts have earned her some well-deserved recognition.

“On April 9, my mom turned 86 and she celebrated by making masks,” Gordos said. “And then three fire trucks came by and all the firefighters got out and they sang her ‘Happy Birthday.’

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“She felt very, very special and she said she’d never had a birthday like that.”

READ MORE: Vancouver homeless charity turns to homemade masks amid coronavirus pandemic

Gal is determined to keep on sewing face masks for as long as she can.

“Fabric is coming,” Gal said. “A friend is coming with more fabric.”

It’s an impressive project. Gal has now made more than 400 masks.

“I think she’s a queen for doing that,” Barnes said, “for thinking of all her neighbours.”

“I’m very proud of my mom,” Gordos said. “And she’s just happy that she can make a little difference in this situation.”