Local people take action to battle the virus


Home sewers are making a big impact with protective face masks

By Matt Nagle


As our country copes with this historic pandemic, citizen sewers making protective face masks has become akin to organizing scrap metal drives or planting victory gardens during World War II. Making these masks not only helps those on the front lines; they have become an avenue for people to take action and do something rather than to feel helpless in the war against COVID-19.

At Step-by-Step in Puyallup, founder and director Krista Linden jumped on board the moment that Pierce County Council member Dave Morell approached her about mobilizing a mask-making effort. In no time, she enlisted 300 volunteers to cut and sew masks and assemble kits to be delivered to other home sewers. Materials and kits are now out for more than 5,000 masks, and more are going out every day.  

“I’m really thankful that we have people willing to sew for this,” Linden said. “And if we get a lot more material, we can use more people.” 

Added help to get mask-making materials to sewers came when Whitewater Church in Puyallup set up a delivery system for elderly folks and those who are immune compromised.

The county is paying for materials and Linden is providing the network of seamstresses. She’s organizing it through her personal Facebook page, where she has made everything public about the mask-making effort. Those who are interested in helping out can leave a comment there or message her.

Among those helping is a group of Microsoft employees who are laser cutting the mask fabric, about 1,000 a day. “This saves a lot of time for the people making them. We were just sending out three yards of material at a time for people to cut, and now they can start sewing right away without having to cut out the pattern. That has saved a tremendous amount of time,” Linden said. 

For 23 years, Step by Step has helped at-risk pregnant women to deliver healthy babies and get on track to embrace parenting and a secure future for themselves and their children. Services range from in-home counseling and education to something that’s needed now more than ever: providing life’s necessities like food, baby items and cleaning products brought right to their front door. Learn more at www.StepByStepFamily.org

Another aspect of Step by Step is Farm 12. Located on the Step by Step property at 3303 #B 8thAve. SE in Puyallup, Farm 12 is a first-class, full service restaurant and event center with 100 percent of the profits going to support Step by Step’s programs and services. Farm 12 also serves as a job training and workforce experience for women in Step by Step’s programs. 

Now, because of the coronavirus, Farm 12 was forced to reinvent itself as take-out only but the high quality dishes remain the same. A great way to support Step by Step during the virus outbreak is to order from Farm 12. Curbside pick-up for lunch and dinner is available seven days a week. Family style dinners ($39.99 for a family of four) include popular main dishes like prime rib, along with seasonal vegetables, pastries and dessert. 

To order for yourself or to donate a meal to families in the community struggling at this time , visit www.Farm12.org or call (253) 697-9486. 

There are other ways to help, too. Step by Step has a big need for diapers and wet wipes at this time, along with household items and grocery gift cards for the women they serve. Leave donations in the drop box at Step by Step (3303 #A 8th Ave. SE, Puyallup) or visit www.stepbystepfamily.org/donate.


Here in Tacoma, Lillian Hunter has been making protective face masks in the basement workshop of her South End home. This Tacoma City Council member and textile artist had everything she needed to get started, and so far has made about 200 masks. 

Tacoma City Council member Lillian Hunter made sure that her parents were the first to receive masks she is making in her home workshop.
Credit: Lillian Hunter

“I’m making masks like a mad woman,” she said. “Like everyone else, I was feeling a little bit helpless in what we can actually do to make an impact. It’s not my style to sit around and do nothing, and I really had the sense that the recommendation would come out for everyone to wear a mask. I used to work in healthcare and it just didn’t make sense to not wear one.”

After getting masks first to her elderly parents and to her family members, Hunter is now donating masks to the Korean Women’s Association, which provides in-home healthcare services to seniors. 

“They’re very much hurting for masks and they’re in 13 different counties so I’m going to send as many over there as I can,” she said. “They’re not the frontline healthcare workers, but they play a really critical role in our community and I want to make sure we can support them as best we can.”

This past December, Hunter’s fabric art was featured at MINKA gallery in Tacoma. “When you do projects like that, you end up with a lot of scrap fabric. The miser in me, growing up as a poor kid, can’t just throw that away. After decades of doing that, I’ve suddenly been vindicated because here is the perfect project to use up those scrap fabrics.”

Hunter is a fabric artist, here displaying her fine work at MINKA gallery in Tacoma. Credit: Lillian Hunter

More material came from Steve Hogberg of Northwest Souvenirs in Tukwila, who went to high school with Hunter at Mt. Tahoma. “I sent him a note that T-shirt fabrics work great for these masks and asked if he had any T-shirts laying around that were bloopers or seconds or whatnot that I could take off his hands to use for these masks,” Hunter said. Even though she hadn’t seen him but maybe two times in 40 years, not only did he give her shirts that he had stockpiled; he reached out to some of his friendly competitors and they delivered 24 cases of T-shirts to repurpose into masks. 

Hunter’s friend and top-notch seamstress Mary Sand is also pitching in, taking some of the cases of T-shirts to make masks herself.

Hunter said that in these “interesting political times” she often refers to herself as a “Kennedy Democrat,” as John F. Kennedy was president when she and her family came to America from Denmark around 50 years ago. As she explained, “His inauguration speech had that very famous line, ‘Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.’ These are times when we look around and say, ‘I can’t fix all of the problems that are happening, but this part right here I can do something about and by golly I’m going to.’” 

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