DENVILLE, NJ -- It has been more than one year since the COVID-19 pandemic struck the world. This March, many people reflected on all the hardships they faced since the first lockdown and the strict regulations installed. Others, such as Denville Township resident Susan Banks, reflected on the things they did to help those most affected by the crisis and persevere.
"I feel proud to live in a town like Denville that supports a crazy idea," said Banks.
That crazy idea was Denville Cut & Sew, a community project that Banks put together through Facebook with other individuals to make homemade face masks for everyone. Purchasing yarn in a seven-town radius, this project kept her and everyone busy during the initial lockdown when face masks were not plentiful at the time.
"At that point then, you couldn't get a mask anywhere. Everything that Denville asks me to do, I do. Anything to give back to my town."
Banks is a lifelong township resident and is the owner of Faith & Begorra, located on downtown Broadway. Faith & Begorra is a dress department boutique that specializes in fine Irish and Catholic gifts, such as holy communion dresses. During last year's stay-in restrictions, the store had to close for three months, before reopening in mid-June. Although its doors have remained open since, much work is still being done on rebuilding her business.
"Downtown has had great support from town and outside," said Banks. "We're not there yet, but we've had a lot of outsiders coming from upstate and New York helping. Denville is beautiful and has done everything to keep us afloat."
During the initial three months of the pandemic, Denville Cut & Sew kept everyone busy. In the end, with a team of 100 sewers, cutters, donors and delivery people, about 22,000 were made from March to June. About 2,600 of those masks went to high school graduations, with school names and colors stitched in. Banks eventually closed the project down in mid-June to refocus on her business.
Masks went to many places, such as St. Francisian Oaks, local fire/police departments, senior residential communities and public schools. Most of the material to make the masks was donated. Banks said a yard of fabric can make 18 masks. In total, Denville Cut & Sew collected more than 1,000 yards of fabric.
Banks can also remember when Hurricane Irene hit the township in 2011. Along with 70 local businesses and 350 homes, Faith & Begorra was flooded out and lost almost everything. Yet, even then, her business was supported by the community and was able to reopen.
Nowadays, Denville Cut & Sew is dormant, but Banks says she would start it again if needed.
"If we were ever in that position again, yes," said Banks. "Because I know the people of Denville will come together and get through it all. We would do it again."
Banks further cannot forget the people Denville Cut & Sew touched and the impact it had on them and herself.
"I can't tell you how many letters we got from people who got our masks and how much they thanked us," said Banks. "This gave people purpose for the next three months and kept their minds off the pandemic. They weren't sitting home worrying. Twenty-two thousand masks is a lot of work. I'd also like to thank my friend Robin Gershaw. When I called her, she didn't blink an eye. When we navigated to get the supplies and make and distribute the product, we got it, and we did it."
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