Madison, Ind., ladies get busy making masks for community
Together, Park and Robinson have surpassed
(July 2020) – A poem remembered from childhood starts with the words, “I am one and only one. I can’t do everything. But I can do something, and what I can do, I will do.”
Many individuals and organizations helped provide masks to the local community, just doing what they could, one mask at a time. Two Jefferson County, Ind., individuals, Joyce Park and Jacci Eaglin-Robinson, had cut, sewed and donated more than 11,000 masks by the middle of June, and they are still sewing.
Park, 75, starting making masks because of the mask shortage. She donated masks to the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce, the KDH Foundation for King’s Daughters’ Hospital and to friends, family and organizations across the country. She used material she had on hand in her basement sewing room. Since elastic was in short supply, she tried cutting thin strips from pieces of wide elastic. That didn’t work, but she did find some elastic lace online.
When that ran out, a friend found some soft, stretchy rope-style elastic that was really great for the ear straps, but the cost was $40 per bolt. After that supply was exhausted, Park was able to get elastic from Eaglin-Robinson. That delivery of elastic was the first time the two mask-makers met each other. “Us mask-makers stick together,” Park said.
Photo by Sharyn Whitman
Jacci Eaglin-Robinson has become the “Queen of Masks” for her work in making so many face masks.
Lindsay Bloos, the chamber’s executive director at the time, said, “We got a call asking if we could use any masks. Joyce Park said she would deliver them if we could distribute the masks to local businesses. She brought us over 100 masks.”
The chamber also worked with the Madison Main Street Program, the Visitors Center, and the city to produce a laminated poster for owners to write in their hours and updated information to display in their stores. The masks were delivered with the posters to Main Street businesses. “We were very happy to get that donation of masks. Joyce made it really easy for us,” Bloos said.
“Joyce Park just adopted us. She has given us over 1,000 masks,” said Madonna Wilson, Foundation Coordinator, KDH Foundation. “She even made special masks for the Marketing Department with the KDH initials embroidered on the front.”
When the Speech Therapy Department needed special masks with a clear panel, they asked Park for help. Park found some clear vinyl that she had purchased to make a snow-globe pattern on a winter quilt. Instead, that clear vinyl was used to make the special masks. Ben Huber, Director of Rehabilitation, Home Health and Hospice, said, “Joyce Park’s response was instantaneous. She gave us over 80 masks with a clear front panel so patients could see the therapist’s mouth and lips.”
By mid-June, Park had completed more than 3,419 masks. It wasn’t a big deal to her. “It’s Jacci Eaglin-Robinson who is the real Queen of Masks,” Park said.
Eaglin-Robinson, 42, had initially started sewing to provide masks for her family. She is a stay-at-home mom who previously spent seven years of active duty, full-time military service in the Indiana Army National Guard.
Her grandmother had taught her to sew. She had fabric and a few supplies on hand. Since she did not have a mask pattern, she said, “I just YouTubed it to learn how to make a mask. First, I made enough for our family, then I made 100 more.”
She put the free masks out on her front porch and posted the freebies online. The free masks were gone in 10 minutes. Amazed, she just put on a mask, went to Walmart and bought all of the fabric, white thread and elastic she could find. She sewed for 12-15 hours each day, seven days a week, starting at 3 a.m. and often continuing until midnight. “I thought if I don’t make enough masks, COVID-19 will spread to our family, and it will just get worse,” Eaglin-Robinson explained.
Her whole family became involved in an assembly-line style mask production after her husband, Bill Robinson, and two older sons were furloughed from their jobs at Madison Precision Products.
Bill cut the fabric for the masks and the ear straps. Their two sons did the next steps. Deuce, 21, ironed the sides in preparation for sewing. Jordon, 21, sewed the sides. Then the fabric went back to Deuce for the triple fold of the surgical-style mask. The difficult fold earned the name, “the devil’s fold.” Next the folded fabric was handed to Jacci to sew the sides and ear straps. Finally, Jacob, 16, and Alana, 8, trimmed off extra fabric and loose threads, and put the finished masks in the box.
Every morning at 9 a.m., Jacci hung the completed masks on clotheslines strung across her porch. The masks were sorted by size: regular, extra-large to cover beards, and small for children.
From her dining room window, she could see a line of cars in the cul-de-sac waiting for her to open each morning. Most days, she distributed 200-300 masks. At 9 p.m., she would take in any remaining masks and spray her porch with a bleach-water solution so it was sanitized and ready for the next day.
She personally delivered 50 masks to Madison City Hall, dropping them off at the drive-through for the Water Department so she didn’t have to go inside. Her husband handed out masks to Walmart employees. Because their daughter, Bethany, works at the Indiana Department of Corrections, masks went to the DOC. Jacci also donated fabric and supplies for the offenders sewing project so they could be taught to sew masks as well.
Additional masks went to restaurants, including Arby’s, Wendy’s, Papa John’s, McDonald’s, and Pizza Hut. She shipped masks to 17 states, including Alaska, where an Army friend is stationed. When she learned that the local nursing homes needed masks, she donated masks to most of the nursing homes in Madison and the surrounding area.
“There’s no reason anyone should suffer,” she said.
Known simply as the “mask lady,” Jacci had completed more than 8,000 masks before the end of June. Individuals left donations of fabric, supplies and cash on her porch to support her work. “With that support, I still have enough material to make another 7,000 masks, and I’m going to do it. I have a feeling we may need more in the fall,” she said.
Jacci is modest about her volume of donated masks, saying, “I had help from my family. Joyce Park is the sweetest, most hard-working woman I have ever met. She did all of her masks by herself.”
When asked about her motivation for all of this hard work, Jacci explained, “My mother was a single mom. I was the oldest of nine kids. We were poor, but we never did without because Mom worked two jobs. She never took welfare or food stamps. We lived at Presidential Apartments in Madison because she needed help with the rent. We had a rollaway bed under the steps for any kid that needed a safe place to sleep.”
After Jacci joined the National Guard, she used her first paycheck to move her mother to an apartment and pay the rent. “When I was stationed in Alabama and Arizona, Mom always sent me The RoundAbout each month as a little bit of home. I’ve traveled all over the world. There’s no place like Madison,” Jacci said.
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