Cut, Sew, Distribute, Repeat

El Segundo Woman’s Club makes and distributes more than 1,000 face masks to those in need—and keeps its sense of humor throughout.

By Carol Cervantes

On March 25, before the pandemic truly hit California, Linda Johnson of El Segundo Woman’s Club and El Segundo Chamber of Commerce suggested we here at the Woman’s Club start sewing protective face masks. I was hesitant, thinking there was no way nurses would really wear them, but I still thought we should do it. Club members Lynda Darna and Jane Burnell were a bit skeptical, too, but both agreed to help. 

Jane then created a gmail address specifically for this project, and we put a message on the social-media app Nextdoor recruiting team members and fabric donations. We were off and running.

That Escalated Quickly

A few days later, we couldn’t make masks fast enough! Fabric from what seemed like most of the closets in El Segundo covered my floor, patterns and extra bits were hanging from a string on clothespins in my living room, Jane couldn’t keep up with the emails, and Lynda found she dislikes cutting fabric but can tolerate cutting elastic. Linda Johnson happily exclaimed that it all made her feel a little like Rosie the Riveter. 

Sue Harrison, one of our members who lives in Torrance, soon joined, and we began sharing fabric, supplies, and masks. Soon after, Sue created a team of her own. Jill Villalpando followed suit a few days later and created a USO team. Sue Stemke, who is not a club member but who is essentially a whole club unto herself, magically materialized fabric, cord, elastic, and masks from seemingly thin air. She delivered huge rolls of stretchy stuff from Skechers and a five-foot roll of fabric from My Best Bud here in El Segundo. 

The Process

Generally I’d get the fabric, then wash and separate it into manageable bundles. Jane would then dispense those bundles into little brown bags left on her porch for those doing the cutting. When the cut fabric was returned to Jane, she gave it back to me to bundle for those doing the sewing. Those team members retrieved their packages, in little brown bags again, from Jane’s porch. (Eventually Jane’s neighbors became suspicious of all this brown-bag activity. No problem: we bribed ESPD with 90 masks to look the other way! No shady deals here!)

The story goes on and on, and could fill a book. I am betting that Herb Walsleben was our most prolific cutter and that Barbara Hiatt and Jo Purvis sewed so many masks they have perhaps not yet recovered. 

There are stories behind all of our 26 sewing volunteers and 18 cutting volunteers. Maybe we will have a masquerade ball someday, once the pandemic has passed, and we can thank all of our members (and non-members) who donated their time and labor, producing more than 1200 masks total. 

Numbers of donated ESWC face masks as of 4/28/20:

Childrens Hospital LA: 23

Little Co. of Mary: 128

Kaiser LA: 87

Ralph’s grocery store: 80

USO: 89

Whole Foods: 57

City employees: 10

ESFD: 64

UPS: 4

USPS: 100

Nursing home: 20

99 Cents Only store: 25

Park Vista: 120

Davis & DeRosa: 12

The Mail Box: 4

Rite Aid: 25

St. Anthony’s Pharmacy: 8

Walgreen’s: 28

Industrial Lock & Security: 15

Electric Bikes LA: 2

Bike-O-Rama: 6

El Segundo Animal Hospital: 20

ESPD: 90

La Paz: 10

Childrens Hosp. OC: 35

ES Incident Command team: 70

Children's Hospital Washington DC: 55

Members themselves, and friends: 32+

To be determined: 33

Total: 1252

These numbers do not include Jill’s team at the USO, Sue H’s team in Torrance, or the hundreds of additional masks that Sue S has given to hospitals. It also does not include the masks that were sewn by our team from their own fabric and given to family, friends, and the community.  

This story was written and contributed by ESWC member Carol Cervantes. Thank you, ESWC, for serving our community so selflessly and generously!

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