The answer to why Maggie Kaplan chose to create cloth masks for COVID19 protection is pretty simple: because she could.
“It was a way to do something for the community while self-isolating,” she said, “and make some money for the senior center in the process.”
At press time, “some money” has meant $4,000 in donations to the Orcas Island Senior Center with instructions to use it where it’s needed most.
Together with her neighbor Sherri Schiff, Kaplan has stitched hundreds (she gave counting at 300) of brightly colored, two-sided masks, some with elastic (Kaplan’s), others with ties (Schiff’s). On any given day, they hang from a line strung along Kaplan’s carport, wafting in the breeze waiting for passersby who wander down her lane.
“I had a lot more foot traffic in the early days of the pandemic when we were confined to our homes,” she explained. “Now, folks who have heard about the masks can drive over, choose one and leave a donation if they’d like.”
Using what cloth she had on hand plus boxes of donated fabrics, Kaplan spends as much as two full days a week creating life-saving face coverings from her house.
“I was practical in the beginning,” she said. “I put a sign out saying I had masks available in exchange for fresh vegetables. I ended up getting four and five bags of fresh veggies at a time! I had so much I took some to the food bank and to neighbors.
“It was great fun,” she laughed. “Turning it into a fund-raiser for the senior center seemed a logical next step.”
Kaplan has been sewing since she was six years old, following in the footsteps of her mother who was also a seamstress.
“I was never into it as much as my mom but I did manage to make several Halloween costumes for my children. I was especially proud of an Easter dress I made for my daughter when she was two years old. It was yellow with organdy smocking and it was lovely!”
These days, sewing colorful fabric masks for the community fills Kaplan with loads of joy and satisfaction.
“Orcas is an incredibly supportive community,” she said. “And it provides plenty of opportunities for people to do what they like and what they’re good at.
“I love to sew; making masks is my way of doing what I love and, in the process, contributing to the senior center, an organization that provides so many needed services to the island’s elderly and vulnerable population.”
Kaplan should know. She serves as chair of the Senior Services Council of San Juan County, and is a member of the Orcas District Committee. She has spent hours volunteering for dozens of organizations during her 31 years on the island and shows no signs of slowing down.
In fact, she’s looking forward to taking her mask-making outside, in a sort of artist-in-residence move.
“When the weather switches to our typical summer sunshine, I’m thinking about moving the machine and fabric tables outside in the drive and sewing to the sounds of birds, the trees and neighbors saying hello.”
Kaplan is profoundly grateful for the response to her mask-making.
“From the gift of a small painting depicting the carport with its string line of masks, to a gift of flowers to the sweet thank you notes and the dozens of monetary gifts, I’d like to thank everyone who’s donated to a very important cause,” she shared.
“And wear a mask!”
Kaplan’s masks are available at Orcas Arts & Gifts in Eastsound.