Creative Franklin Township sisters produce and donate masks to local hospitals

By Angie Norris

Community members are coming together during to provide handmade masks for the public. Some have been sewing a long time; others have just started to learn because they want to help. They are using household materials such as T-shirts, bandanas and elastic out of pants. DIY face masks help to protect the wearer while also helping prevent them from unknowingly spreading the virus to others, useful when some people who have COVID-19 may show no symptoms, according to the CDC.

Alena Van Arendonk, a competitive costumer and Franklin Township resident, said, “In normal years, I would be traveling to conventions around the United States (and occasionally to other countries) to exhibit my costumes and teach costuming workshops. Because of the pandemic, nearly all the events I normally attend have been canceled, so my costuming work has ground to a halt.” As soon as Arendonk heard about the supply shortages at hospitals, she looked up mask guidelines, began to sort through fabric she had and found enough cotton material to make at least 300 masks without ever leaving the house for supplies.

Alena Van Arendonk is a competitive costumer. (Submitted photos)

Alena’s sister, Laura Van Arendonk Baugh is also a Franklin Township native and costume artist (cosplayer) and joined in to help. Their first batch of 62 masks went to Eskenazi Hospital.

“On the one hand, it’s surreal to be making homemade equipment for frontline and support staff,” Van Arendonk Baugh said. “On the other, I keep thinking this is what World War II must have felt like, in the WVS (Women’s Voluntary Service) or the American Red Cross.”

Masks ready for donation to Eskenazi Hospital.

The sisters are both still in the process of making more masks. “You don’t have to be experienced or really skilled to be able to help with this,” Van Arendonk Baugh said. “Or you can support a mask-making friend by cutting cotton strips from old cotton T-shirts to make mask ties, or from cotton bedsheets.”

“While sitting at home sewing is not a frontline job like working in a hospital or delivering groceries, it’s one of the few ways that I can help,” Van Arendonk added. “I’ll keep making masks until I run out of materials.”