Updated: May 29
April 28th, 2020
by Diana Natti Theriault
During the spring, Kristen Nowacki is usually busy sitting in front of her sewing machine, tucked away in her craft room. Normally, she would be hard at work sewing costumes for the spring musical at Bear Path Elementary here in Hamden. But this spring, of course, has been anything but normal. Instead of volunteering to create one of a kind costumes for students, she is making face masks to keep our front line workers and community safe.
Pictured: Kristen and her daughters Eleanore and Olivia working on masks, Olivia demonstrating a mask, and Olivia dressed in a costume Kristen created for her role as Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast.
Having previously worked in Yale New Haven Hospital's Rehab department, and with many close friends working daily to provide care and comfort to patients, Kristen could not sit idly, while the need for PPE was so grave.
Kristen started by checking in with YNHH to be sure she could create masks that would be useful to those on the front lines. She purchased 16 yards of fabric, and worked with a college friend to get the needed elastic. Within days of the lock down order and the initial pleas for donated masks seen on Facebook and the news, Kristen set to work at her sewing machine.
Using the pattern provided by YNHH, and fabric she purchased, Kristen began to create pocket masks. The special pattern creates a mask that has a pocket for a filter, to provide a further level of protection for the wearer. In the first few weeks, Kristen created and donated over 100 fabric pocket masks to both her former co-workers at Yale, and to workers at Silver Hills Hospital.
It was at that time that she posted a quick status update on her Facebook page showing a photo of the masks she was making. Within days, she had requests from many of her friends, asking if they could purchase one of her handmade masks. Of course, Kristen did not hesitate to help those who reached out asking for help. To date, she has created 283 of her pocket masks (and counting) and given them away at no charge.
Some of the families she donated to shared their thanks with me:
Lisa Evans (pictured), of Hamden said "To know Kristen is to know that she has a very giving nature, it comes as no surprise that she would give of her time and talents to see that frontline workers and friends have her beautifully made masks to help keep them safe. She's a true hero!"
Marcia MacNiven, also of Hamden, who requested masks for her husband and son (pictured), said "We have known Kristen for years, and were not surprised that she started to do this amazing thing. My family and I are grateful for the masks she made for us, and know that by using them we will be keeping ourselves and our friends safe."
With three kids home from school, Kristen has still found time to work on the masks daily. She said that it takes about 15 - 20 minutes per mask, and that, with the help of her "assistants" she is able to produce about 10 - 15 masks per day.
Helping her each day are her three daughters, Eleanore who is in 7th Grade at HMS, Olivia who is in 5th Grade, and Cecilia, who is three (and the cutest assistant ever).
Kristen says she feels lucky to be in a position to make these masks and donate them to those in need, and she plans to continue as long as she is able. But, she says, not every family is in the same position to give. She suggests that those who accept her donated masks, if able, pay it forward in another way. Perhaps consider donating to a program that will help people in our community impacted by the virus, and of course, we should all share the love Kristen used to create these masks with others.
Thank you to Kristen, her family, and to all who selflessly volunteer to help each day.