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Palos Hills' Woman Catalyst for Mask-Making Project

Shari Schmidt

Shari Schmidt sits comfortably around the bench in the family's backyard with two more bags of various-sized cloth masks that she and the small army of volunteers have made to help guard against COVID-19.

These masks, which have become a part of everyday life, are the second batch headed to North Palos District 117 for students and staff. 

Schmidt, who works in marketing for a global corporation, said she began seeing signs in early February that a virus was coming out of Europe and masks were being mandated as part of the personal protective equipment. 

"I had friends in London email me that they needed masks," Schmidt said. She took to Facebook and launched a crusade to recruit volunteers to help make as many masks as they could.

Schmidt said the group has made and donated a few hundred masks to District 117. In total, nearly 1,500 masks have been made and sent to Ronald McDonald Houses, local churches, Sertoma, Park Lawn and the Navajo Nation in Arizona. 

Most of the volunteers live in Palos Hills, although there are some from Palos Heights and Palos Park. There are even three from Schmidt’s own family, including husband Tom and twin daughters Ally and Abby, who are 17-year-old juniors at Stagg High School.

Mrs. Schmidt is no stranger to volunteering and participating in her community. She was an active volunteer in the school district during the years her daughters attended North Palos School District 117.

Currently, there are about a dozen volunteers working on masks from buying the fabric, washing and drying, ironing and cutting, and sewing the squares before putting on the elastic. Then, the masks are mailed or delivered to their destinations.

Schmidt said it takes roughly 30 minutes to make a mask from start to finish.

Daughters Abby and Ally help with sewing the masks, and Tom assists with cutting the 9X6-inch (child) and 9X13-inch (adult) swaths of fabric.  He also assists in pickup and delivery.

People need help out there," Schmidt said. "This is an easy thing that we can do. We’re just doing our part, and we are happy to do it."