Mask-making project sews up donations for charity

Nancy Williamson, a parishioner at Our Lady of the Lake, and her group of family-friends-neighbors have been making and selling masks to fund We Care, to the tune of about $42,000. (Provided)

CHAPIN—What began as a simple project to provide masks for friends and family has grown into an outreach fundraiser worth thousands of dollars, and underscored the joy of giving that has no price tag. 

Nancy Williamson, a parishioner at Our Lady of the Lake, said she and her group of family-friends-neighbors have raised a total of about $42,000 for the We Care outreach — all from selling masks, plus some matching donations from employees at Dominion Energy and the We Care board members.

Williamson said she was inspired by her neighbor’s daughter, Lila Patterson, who was working in a hospital in Anderson at the start of the pandemic, and put out a plea for masks.

So Williamson dusted off her sewing machine and made masks for the hospital staff.

Then, while she and her husband were in isolation waiting for a COVID test (it was negative), she started making masks for all her family and friends to help them be safe from the spread of the virus. 

Her sister, Rebecca Bittenger, pitched in to help even though she had never sewn in her life. She learned.

“My sister wanted everybody to have a mask because she’s a nurse and I wanted to help people in need, so it was a good combination,” Williamson said.

Looking through her house she realized they had all the supplies already on hand, including a bolt of fabric that seemed to come from nowhere.

“It really felt like God was saying, ‘Girl, you need to get to work,’” Williamson said with a laugh.

They made and donated masks for a month for free, teaming up with Shella Veach, who delivered food and masks to older parishioners. 

Then, during Midlands Gives they started selling them, designating the profits for We Care, an outreach that provides food and other essentials to those in need.

Williamson said they knew so many people who were struggling; self-employed people who had lost their incomes, such as hairdressers and caterers, and didn’t receive anything from the Paycheck Protection Program.

“We really wanted to help all the people that were affected by this whole mess in the first place,” she said.

The fundraising project for We Care grew into a solid family outreach effort as her husband Bob, a Knight with Our Lady of the Lake, and her kids — Michael and Maggie — all contributed in some way, along with friends and neighbors.

Now the mask-making outreach has taken over her kitchen table and front porch, where a table is filled with masks for sale.

Father Dennis Willey, pastor of Our Lady of the Lake, said he and the parish are amazed at the work ethic and generosity of the group.

“It’s really been a tremendous gift to the community and We Care,” Father Willey said.

Williamson said they couldn’t have done it without the support of the community and all the businesses that allow her to market the masks free of charge.

In the end, the motivation goes back to just trying to help. If someone doesn’t have $10 for a mask, they can get it for less, or for free.

Making the masks isn’t about profiting in a pandemic, she said, it’s about reaching out to those in need.

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