After COVID-19 began to spread in the United States, the CDC has recommended the use of masks to help stop the spread of the virus. Soon masks started disappearing from store shelves and many people began making their own cloth masks.
Members of the Alaska Native Ministry in Anchorage, led by Sister Frances Vista, saw the need for masks in the villages and local shelters. Together women in the group have made hundreds of masks to donate to people in the community.
Marilyn Lokanin said Sister Frances first approached her and two other members of the group to make 21 masks for a family who was going to attend a funeral in a village to distribute to their family members. “Sister Frances wanted them made the next day,” she said. So, each lady decided they would make seven masks. “We had them done with two hours to spare,” Lokanin shared. After that first order, more started to come in and the women of the Alaska Native Ministry have been up to the task.
Lokanin said she was more than happy to assist Sister Frances since she already had the materials in her sewing room at home and has helped Sister Frances with sewing requests in the past. Renee Nicholson, a member of the group, said that her sewing experience came from making kuspuks, so she had many scraps that were good for making masks.
Nicholson said she has seen people charging for the cloth masks, but they are doing this as a service “since this is a pandemic, I am doing this to help our people,” so they can feel safe going to the store.
Together the group has made masks for elders in the villages, the religious sisters, residents at Brother Francis Shelter and Clare House.
The group has sponsored Clare House over the years collecting food items for the shelter. Lokanin said they were happy to provide masks for both the women and children. “Sister Frances brought us material with children’s designs on them,” so they would be unique for the kids who would wear them.
Those in the community who have received masks have been grateful for the donations from Catholic Native Ministry. Lisa Aquino, director of Catholic Social Services, said, “The Catholic Native Ministry thought of a sweet twist on this great work, by making masks for the children at Clare House,” she added “It was such a thoughtful and wonderful contribution for the children at Clare House.”
If you would like to donate materials, especially elastic, please contact Sister Frances at firstname.lastname@example.org.