These mask makers make mask-wearing something to feel (extra) good about.
When Phil Mauser, owner of Daniel’s of Morgantown men’s store, isn’t helping folks get suited up for special occasions, he’s coordinating cloth mask donations. Just over a week after Governor Justice issued the stay-at-home order that temporarily closed non-essential businesses, Mauser received a call from a pediatrician at Cardinal Pediatrics asking if his tailors could sew masks for those directly affected by the PPE shortage. Mauser purchased supplies from Hobby Lobby, and, in a matter of hours, his tailors Ahmed Muhammad and Harry Yurekli had made 50 masks. Mauser delivered them to Cardinal Pediatrics that afternoon.
Instead of sitting idly through the stay-at-home order, Mauser’s tailors made a total of 5,000 masks. He donated them to WVU Medicine, Mon Health Medical Center, WVU Medicine Children’s Hospital, the Rosenbaum Family House, and nursing facilities. “We were just trying to help where we could,” he says.
In May, when non-essential business were able to reopen, Mauser began importing masks to Daniel’s. He shipped 25,000 of them to coal mining companies, banks, and convenience stores. Wherever people needed masks, he would send them. “I’m in a position to help. Why not?” he says.
If you’re in need of a mask, you can find one at Daniel’s for $10 each.
West Virginia native Elisha Rush is an artist and designer living in Morgantown. You’ve likely seen her quirky and colorful art on trash compactors around town, or her “sassy and trashy” racoon sticker for sale at Hoot and Howl. Prior to the pandemic, Rush’s schedule was packed with events where she planned to sell her artwork but, with those cancelled, she found herself with time to pick up a new skill—sewing.
“This project really came about because of the gap in my life these cancelled arts and craft fairs had left,” Rush says. “I wanted some way to help and feel useful, so I used what I had and filled in the gaps from there.”
On July 18, Rush set up shop outside Retro-tique on Walnut Street and, with the help of other local crafters, activists, and organizations, distributed 156 washable fabric face masks to anyone in need. To date, Rush has given away more than 200 free masks to the greater Morgantown community. Her next giveaway is on September 18 from 1 to 7 p.m. at the First Presbyterian Church on Spruce Street.
Mask 4 Mask is a not-for-profit mask-making project co-owned by Paul Liller and Robin Hearts-Love. For every mask they make, they donate a mask to someone in need. “As drag entertainers, we have a long history of doing benefit shows,” Liller says. “We can’t throw a drag show to raise money, so what can we do? This just felt like a natural progression.”
Liller, a costume-maker, taught Hearts-Love how to sew, and the two began their project in Liller’s two-bedroom apartment. They started with a handful of not-so-stylish fabrics from Walmart, and Liller thought they’d be lucky if they sold a total of 50 masks and donated 50 more. But the demand for masks was so great, they made 50 masks a day just to keep up. At the height of production, they were making seven times more.
They moved their workspace from Liller’s apartment to 160 Pleasant Street and expanded their fabrics to include more than 200 patterns. They also purchased a Cricut and, most recently, a sublimation printer to heat-transfer custom designs. They’ve made around 15,000 masks, including more than 4,000 sold to the HIV nonprofit Community Education Group at cost and another 600 donated to schools through their Back to School Special. “It has really turned into a beautiful, beautiful thing to help as many people as we have,” Liller says. “We’ve really made lemonade out of lemons.”
Their classic pattern masks are currently on sale for $5, available for contactless pick up in Morgantown or delivery nationwide.
The Mask 4 Mask portion of this story was updated with clarifications.