CM employees make personal investment in mask making effort
Since the end of March, a pair of Church Mutual Insurance Company employees have been working diligently to manufacture face masks for those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Of the several hundred masks created to date, every minute spent and every inch of fabric sewn, has been at their own time and expense.
While Dawn Schroder-Silvela-Church Mutual Insurance Company S.I Corporate Compliance Specialist, and Janet Selnes-Vice President of Broker Distribution, each have their own respective accounts of how they came to get involved in the mask making effort, they share the same source of inspiration; a desire to help others in need.
“I saw a post on Facebook from Ana Blair’s Boutique that she was going to be collecting and shipping face masks, so I reached out to friends and family to assist,” Dawn explains.
Selnes’ inspiration also stems from a social media post, which happened to be from a family member regarding the need for masks in the medical community.
“My cousin is a seamstress in Oregon, and her daughter is a pediatric nurse,” she explains.
“She started posting on Facebook about this need. given conversations with her daughter. She was developing different designs while we were waiting for additional information from medical providers and the CDC (Centers for Disease Prevention and Control) as to what would actually be accepted. As soon as they were able to get it clarified on their end, I realized from other articles and postings that there would be various types of masks needed within communities.
“Some medical providers would be allowed to utilize fabric masks that either encompassed or went over medical masks such as the N95 or the surgical masks. But other individuals who had lower levels of exposure would need something to help them, and if I could help fill that need, then there would be more N95 and surgical masks for the medical professionals. I also began seeing posts from senior living facilities asking quilters for help.”
As Janet explains, her masks are made of quilting fabric and a material known as batik.
“Batik is a cotton that, while lightweight, has a very tight weave, which is more effective than a loose weave fabric like what a bandanna is. I’ve also used beading elastic for the straps, which is very thin. Mine won’t be as durable as Dawn’s because the elastic isn’t as thick, but my masks are more for incidental wear, such as individuals who are needing to go on a grocery run for example, senior living care providers who need to use them when around residents, or the residents when they need to leave their rooms. “I’ve mailed the majority of them since they have been sent to people outside of the state, but I have delivered to Bell Tower in Merrill personal friends, local individuals, as well as Church Mutual employees.” she adds.
“It takes me five minutes of sewing time for a mask. But with the other aspects, such as cutting fabric and ties, washing material; I would estimate eight to 10 minutes max per mask.”
Dawn’s design is made entirely of cotton. She also estimates approximately 10 minutes to manufacture each mask.
“We are using cotton fabric from our supply for our project at church, where we sew dresses for girls in Africa,” Schroder-Silvela explains.
“Several people are cutting all the fabric and then my Mom and I sew them together. We are working with friends and family to create them, it’s super fun to have the whole family participating. We have distributed masks locally to friends and family in the medical field. We’ve shipped some to Illinois, where my sister is a nurse and is distributing them. We have given some to my friend from church whose sons are doctors in Minneapolis and Miami. We have also given many to Vanessa at Ana Blair’s and she is then shipping them.”
In just over a month’s time, Janet’s efforts have yielded 525 masks; 300 of which have been distributed to medical facilities while the remaining 200 have gone to individuals in need. Dawn, along with her mother, have created and distributed approximately 300 masks.
“These women have done all of this great work at their own expense, on their own time,” Dawn Bernatz, Church Mutual Director of Corporate Communications, proudly adds.
“We are so proud of them, and we were excited to share their efforts through our social media posts. They clearly illustrate the values we share at Church Mutual. In business, we protect the greater good. In our communities, we stand for good. That means we support the communities where we live and work.”