St. Joseph’s womens group begins mask-making drive

The Fellona family sets up their kitchen table as a factory workshop to make surgical masks. Maggie, Tessa, Adeline and Julianna display their handiwork. (Provided)

COLUMBIA—Sarah Fellona’s kitchen is serving multiple purposes these days. There’s cooking of course, and after she and her four daughters are done with home-schooling, the table turns into a factory. 

She sits at the kitchen table with Maggie, 16; Tessa, 14; Adeline, 13; and Julianna, 10, surrounded by squares of colorful material and rolls of elastic. Together they sew objects that have become especially important lately — surgical masks. 

The Fellona family has joined dozens of other women at St. Joseph Church in making the masks, which are in increasingly short supply because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The effort has been led by members of the St. Joseph Women’s Society and picked up by others around the parish as well. 

Maria Carrero, Women’s Society president, said shortly after the COVID-19 crisis started to escalate, she talked with another parishioner and physician at Lexington Medical Center, who told her how quickly surgical masks were running out.

Carrero and treasurer Julie Rotureau spread the word about the need fand within two weeks had more than 13 women making them. 

The process is like an assembly line. Some women cut the fabric, others cut elastic, others sew, and some sew and cut. Volunteers can pick up supplies at a bin placed at the parish ministry building and drop off finished products in the same place, so the work can go on while maintaining distance. 

Not everyone can sew, but they help in other ways. Carrero got a phone call from a 94-year-old woman who said she is unable to sew but will be praying for all of the women making the masks as well as those who receive them.

Fellona’s youngest daughter, Juliana, and Rotureau’s granddaughter, Bailey, are both fourth-graders at St. Joseph School. Recently, they joined in on a Zoom session with their teacher and classmates and asked for help with the project. Several classmates said they would like to write letters and draw pictures to send to the healthcare workers and others who receive the masks. 

The finished product will go to Lexington Medical Center and to the Free Clinic, which offers medical care for the needy in the Columbia area. Fellona said she has also received requests for masks from people with elderly family members and neighbors, and future products might go to others if the CDC recommends that everyone wear masks. 

Another group of volunteers has started making gowns to be used for patients in isolation at Providence Hospital in Columbia. 

“It’s really wonderful to see this effort getting bigger, and so exciting to see the parish coming together,” Carrero said. 

For the Fellona family, the work has also become a way to bring positivity to what otherwise could be a stressful time. 

“Using the free time we have in a constructive way has been great, and we’re also making memories,” Fellona said. “When we look back at this experience, we can remember how we set up the sewing factory in the kitchen.”