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Edmonton women raise nearly $20,000 for charity by sewing masks during COVID-19 pandemic

Edmontonians making masks for charity
WATCH ABOVE: Two Edmonton women have spent the pandemic helping the community. As Sarah Ryan reports, their sewing skills have been put to good use in more ways than one.

Two Edmonton women have been using their time stuck at home because of novel coronavirus pandemic to give back to their community, by sewing masks for charity.

Jean Henderson has volunteered in the victim services unit with the Edmonton Police Service, at K-Days, the Edmonton Indy, the Grey Cup, the Tournament of Hearts, the CFR and at countless other events.

But with COVID-19 forcing the cancellation of so many events, the senior found another way to help.

“I thought, I could sew some masks.”

READ MORE: 2020 K-Days, Taste of Edmonton festivals cancelled due to COVID-19 pandemic

Since April, Henderson has sold 1,600 masks by donation to the Alberta SPCA.

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“I shipped them to the States, I’ve shipped them all across Canada,” she said.

She’s raised more than $8,200.

“It’s just to give back to the community. I mean, the community’s been good to us.”

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The donations are going to the Help for Animals program, which delivers food to families struggling to feed their pets.

“I’ve had animals, and to think that people would have to surrender them because of this? And not have their income to afford their pet? Because really, a pet is part of your family,” Henderson explained.

“It’s amazing. We rely on donations to do the work we do, especially at a time when revenues are down and costs are up,” Alberta SPCA’s communications manager Dan Kobe said.

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Henderson’s masks can be picked up in Edmonton or Sherwood Park and orders are taken via email at JeanHenderson1947@hotmail.com 

She said making them is a family affair — with her daughters and husband also helping. Strangers have stepped up too.

“A lot of the supplies have been donated. Lori’s fabric [Country Cottage] in Sherwood Park has donated, quilters have donated, people have dropped of material when they pick their masks up,” she explained.

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All the sewing has been rough on her machines, she noted. One is no longer usable.

“One machine has white thread in it and one machine has black thread in it. My machine with the white thread, it needs an overhaul big time. I’m down to one machine right now. But I’ll just keep changing the thread,” she said, smiling.

“That’s a lot of work for one person and I know that she’s going all day, mostly every day. We’re inspired. People like that help all of us get through difficult times like this,” Kobe said.

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Across town, Carolan Lassiter’s sewing machine is also getting a workout.

“This is my mom’s sewing machine, so this sewing machine is very, very old. So it is going to need servicing, I’m sure, after this,” she said.

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To date, Lassiter has made more than 1,400 masks in support of the Edmonton Food Bank.

“I can’t imagine losing your job and not being able to feed your family. I think that would be a terrible, terrible position to be in.”

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She chose the food bank because her dad used to volunteer there.

Donations for her masks have topped $10,000. But she won’t take all of the praise, instead calling it a community effort.

“A lot of people in our neighbourhood have volunteered to bring me fabric and elastic. I had a couple gals that offered to help cut out fabric so that I could sew quicker,” she explained.

Lassiter has received some orders for essential workers, including Tim Hortons’ employees, Costco employees and guards at the Edmonton Remand Centre. She was unable to work either of her jobs when the pandemic hit.

“I basically lost both of my lines of work. I’m an artist here in the city and I run a day home for kids. I was looking for something to do that would give back to the community,” she explained.

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When her hands started to hurt, she bought herself a rotary cutting mat and a rotary cutter to make things easier.

Lassiter takes orders for masks through her Facebook page Mama Katz Mosaic.

“I will keep sewing masks as long as people want them and there is a need. The food bank is going to need money for a long time moving forward.”