Hundreds if not thousands of Santa Clarita Valley residents have stepped up to help essential workers receive the supplies they need to continue to do their jobs safely.
And, when Saugus resident and teacher Debbie Beydler saw the shortage of personal protective equipment facing health care workers, the seamstress thought, “‘Masks? How hard can that be?’” she recalled.
“So, I pulled it up on YouTube, I followed it and I did it,” Beydler said.
Soon she was filling her newfound free time with making masks for friends, family and neighbors, until one reached the hands of a nurse at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
“The nurse wore it, and I guess they fell in love with them,” she said. “So, they asked me if I would just make as many as I could.”
Since then, she’s made hundreds for both Children’s and Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital.
“To me, it’s pretty easy just because I love to sew, and so I just keep going,” Beydler said. “I spend probably six, seven hours making masks every day.”
With so many out there making masks, it’s been hard to find elastic, so Beydler got creative, adding strips of fabric to each side of the mask, making them tieable instead. And, she, too, says she’ll keep going until they aren’t needed.
“I just enjoy it so much,” she added. “It just makes me feel so good to be helping out the community.”
Canyon County resident Rose Ortega made her first masks for her family and neighbors.
Her operation remained small until a neighbor who’s a manager at the Ralphs in Granary Square asked if she could help supply their employees. “So, I made them over 200 masks,” Ortega said.
Like most, Canyon Country resident Cathy Johnson and her mother, Alice Olp, had also started making masks for family and neighbors.
Then, Johnson just so happened to see Ortega post on social media, asking if anyone else needed masks.
“Several people had requested masks, and then (Ortega) posted, ‘OK, wait, I have to stop taking orders now because I’m too backed up,’” Johnson said.
It was then that she decided to message Ortega privately, offering her help, and though the ladies had never met before, they quickly bonded over their mask-making efforts.
“The first two weeks were nonstop,” Johnson added. “We were sewing like 12, 14 hours a day. The orders were crazy, but it was a lot of fun.”
Now, they’ve enlisted the help of Johnson’s mother, Olp, and friends, Susan Banks and Dori Wolfenstein, calling themselves the “Masketeers.”
Even before people were mandated to wear masks, essential workers were struggling to find them, which makes their efforts all the more necessary, Johnson added.
“People are just so thankful and appreciative of what we were doing, so it’s been so rewarding and heartwarming,” she said.
When people would offer to pay, the ladies would instead take donations for the SCV Food Pantry.
“So, I put a box outside, and when they pick up their masks, they have the option of dropping off something in the food box,” Ortega said. “And once a week, we get to take it to the pantry, and they’re really happy because they really need the food.”
On Wednesday, they celebrated hitting more than 3,000 donated masks, with donations going to more than 45 businesses and first responders in the SCV and beyond, stretching as far as to New York for the police department.
“We said that we would keep making masks until we ran out of materials or drop, because right now they are so needed,” Ortega said. “So, as long as people need them, we’ll just keep providing them.”
A welcome distraction
Valencia resident Monica Stewart has had a hard few months. First, she lost her husband, Tony, in September. Then, she had surgery and went on medical leave from work.
“It’s been really tough,” she said. “I’ve been isolating since Tony died really, which is probably not a good thing.”
And a couple of weeks ago, her daughter had a baby, and she wasn’t able to attend the birth due to the current health crisis.
“It’s just been one disappointing thing after another,” Stewart said. “It’s been challenging.”
Before the need for masks, Stewart had been given numerous swatches of quilting fabric. “They’re all perfect-sized swatches of fabric, and I’m not a quilter, so I had nothing to do with them.”
So, when the need came about, she first used the swatches to sew enough masks for her large family, and then she began making some for her neighbors.
“(I was) just trying to take care of the neighborhood, so if they have little kids, I made smaller ones for them and bigger ones for the parents,” Stewart said, adding that she even made some for the kids’ dolls. “It just helps the little kids to put their mask on their dolls, so that it makes them not so scared when they see them.”
Next, she learned from a friend that St. Vincent’s Hospital was reopening as a surgical hospital and that there was a desperate need for masks, so she got to work.
Sewing masks has become a much-needed distraction for Stewart.
“It’s kind of been a blessing in disguise,” Stewart said. “I’m a giver, it’s just what I do, so (making masks) really fills a need for me, too … This really does help my mental health. It does as much for me as it does for anybody else that I could give these to.”
‘Teens Who Care’
For many, helping provide masks meant dusting off those sewing machines, but for others, like West Ranch High School junior Sabrina Fernandez, it meant finding unique ways to raise funds to purchase masks.
“This all started for me when I realized that there are some communities in the valley that are being overlooked, because many people were supplying masks to the health care workers, which is great, of course, but I felt like there was a need in homeless shelters and also with underprivileged families,” Fernandez said.
So, she founded “Teens Who Care,” a student-run organization dedicated to evoking positive change in the community.
To start off, she reached out to Sisters PPE, who make reusable and washable cloth face masks and make one-for-one donations for every mask purchased. There, Fernandez bought $100 worth of masks for adults, as well as children.
“Underprivileged families sometimes cannot afford child care for their children, and they often have to take their children to places like the grocery store or the pharmacy, and children need to protect themselves from this virus as well,” she added. “And, we realized that the rate of infection could go really high in a homeless shelter because of the close quarters, so we saw the need there, too.”
Fernandez distributed that first batch at Rancho Pico Junior High School, handing out 50 masks to parents and children during the lunch distribution, then making a second stop at Bridge to Home to donate 50 more masks.
Since then, she’s enlisted the help of some friends, and they’re fundraising for their second batch by selling Lady Di’s Cookies and delivering them to people in the community.
This time, Fernandez is working with a group of Santa Clarita mask makers, trading 100 masks for a bolt of fabric she’s purchasing with the funds they raise.
She then plans to distribute this batch at the La Mesa Junior High School lunch distribution, as well as to senior living facilities in the SCV.
“Teenagers are kind of getting a bad rap during this pandemic because most people think that we’re not social distancing or not taking it seriously,” Fernandez said. “I just want to show the community that there are teenagers who actually want to help and are taking this seriously.”