Since March 8, Susan Danner has been isolating in her Muncie home, only going outside to get her mail, care for her flowers and feed her birds and squirrels.
Throughout the past five months, Danner has also hand-sewn more than 4,000 face masks for Muncie community members, selling some and donating others. Her daughter, Moth Danner, gave a few masks to neighbors and close friends after visiting her while wearing face masks and speaking through the front door.
Moth said selling her mother’s masks felt similar to other projects they’ve worked on together, such as baking pies for Susan’s “The Pie Lady” booth at the Muncie Makers Market and volunteering together at the Soup Kitchen of Muncie. Moth is more of the public face for the masks than in the past, she said, because her mother isn’t out and about due to the pandemic.
When Moth began seeing international news coverage about the pandemic in January, she said, she started to feel worried about the coronavirus.
“I felt it would be really bad here by March and would stay at least somewhat risky for about a year,” Moth said. “We’d already begun stocking up on supplies and Mom’s medication, as well as emotionally preparing for the long haul and Mom staying fully indoors well before it hit here.”
When Susan started sewing masks in late March to keep herself busy and safe while staying inside, she ran out of elastic for ear loops and couldn’t find any in Indiana stores. Moth said they bought ribbon from Muncie shops to tide them over while they searched for more elastic. She said a family member in Kentucky told her about Walker Fabrics in Crestwood, Kentucky that received a large shipment of elastic, and she ordered several pounds of it.
“That Kentucky shop got a giant — like the size of a car — crate of white elastic in, and it was water damaged, so they started selling it in bits and pieces, no rolls of it,” Moth said. “It was weird to buy something like that by the pound and not by length.”
Susan is still using elastic from that purchase in addition to other colors of elastic Moth had found on an Etsy shop.
Susan has donated half of the masks she has sewn, and she uses the money she earns from masks she sold to buy more supplies. She also sells masks on Etsy but for a higher price than local shops to cover shipping costs.
Moth said Shareen Wagley, manager of The Mailroom, and Hailey Perkins, owner of Roo’s Holistic Pet Supplies, reached out to her offering to sell Susan’s masks.
“They both reached out to us, [and] I was very happy that they did,” Moth said. “I was becoming more and more concerned about my personal exposure selling from my porch and the possibility of exposing Mom through me.”
Wagley said The Mailroom also sells masks from seven other local seamstresses who all have charitable causes to support through their sewing.
“This was clear back at the very beginning [in] March [and] April,” Wagley said. “[The Mailroom was] essential. We were open, and you couldn’t find masks anywhere. So, when I saw that she was selling them — and I knew [the Danners for years] — I just messaged her and said I’d be willing to sell them from here.”
The Mailroom was selling hundreds of masks per day in earlier months, Wagley said, and she estimated it had sold close to 10,000 masks total from its local supply, which also helped the business financially.
“It’s probably been one thing that has helped us stay afloat during COVID,” Wagley said. “We were open anyway because we have the post office here, but it’s helped us stay afloat, and it’s helped the citizens get their masks. It was much easier for people to come here and get them rather than having to track down one of the seamstresses.”
Perkins said she buys Susan’s paw print masks for $5 each and sells the masks for $7 at Roo’s Holistic Pet Supplies with the profits going toward animal rescue projects. Currently, Roo’s Pet Supplies has sold 180 of Susan’s masks, raising $360 for Muncie Animal Care and Services.
“There is a good and bad side to offering masks to the community right now,” Perkins said. “Some people have pretty strong feelings about the masks and the requirements around them, and we want no part in that argument. We simply want to offer our customers the option of cute, functional masks with paw prints and cute animals on them.”
Susan said she enjoys making and selling masks for the community, and she thinks she has helped protect her family and friends.
“It feels really great,” she said. “It has also helped keep me from going nuts.”