BELMAR, NJ — Four days into the new school year of hybrid learning, Belmar Elementary School faculty and staff members received a special delivery — face masks made just for them by the group of volunteers who have been creating the coverings since the coronavirus crisis began.
And for retired school teacher Sharon Russell-Fowler who spearheaded the mask-making effort, it was a mission from the heart, beginning with the fabric selection — a gingham-patterned apple print for teachers and a comic book-style superhero cloth, emblazoned with words such as “pow,” “zoom” and “wow” for school administrators.
“The fabric I chose had to be able to be worn by both male and female, so I chose the apple print, which many recognize as symbolic of teaching,” said Russell-Fowler, whose commitment to education continues as president of the Belmar Public Library Board of Trustees. “I wanted to have something a bit different for the principal and superintendent, so I chose the fabric which reminds many of having super powers.”
After creating 10 apple patterned masks, she dropped them off at the school for the teachers to “test out” to make sure they were comfortable enough to wear during the school day. And after receiving the thumbs up, she cut out all 70 patterns and divided the actual mask-sewing task between herself and fellow volunteers Patricia Hutchinson and Terri Lynch.
“We managed to have them all completed in three days and delivered them in person on the fourth day,” Russell-Fowler said, referring to the September 15 delivery to the front of the school, where they were greeted by several staff members.
Within a day, the women began receiving personal emails from BES staff, thanking them for their thoughtful donations. “It is quite gratifying knowing you are helping not only the staff, the students, but also left us all feeling like we’ve helped with this small collaborative effort,” said Russell-Fowler, who herself has made some 1,000 face masks since the coronavirus pandemic struck in late March.
In total, Belmar’s dedicated corps of volunteers has collectively made more than 2,000 face coverings, shields and other related personal protective items that have been donated to area nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, as well as to veteran groups, various local organizations and to people in the community.
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