To buy a new shower or to make masks? That was the question, and an easy one at that, for Cathey Bowers.
Before the pandemic arrived, Bowers was volunteering at her local thrift shop. She and her husband, Sherman Bowers, were saving up for a new shower because after a stroke and two brain surgeries, she tends to stagger.
When the pandemic came she said, “The shower can wait. I want to make masks for the hospitals.” Her husband installed a bar in the shower, and she decided to spend that savings on making masks.
First, she called the hospitals, but said they already had enough masks. Then, she called Arcola Elementary School, and began making masks for the nearby school. She started sewing masks for Huntertown Elementary too. Bowers said she considered how kindergartners would feel about having to wear masks. That’s why she bought a wide array of fabric patterns for the masks.
Students love her masks so much that they rip little tears in their own, just to get one of hers, she said. She heard this and thought, “Oh I don’t want to start a competition, but it is cute.”
Of course, she loves to make the students happy, but she feels she is really doing it for the teachers. She said, “God bless our teachers. They need that protection.” She’s glad they are getting their vaccines now.
She and her husband received their first shots a few weeks ago. She is thankful that she has not contracted COVID-19.
Bowers has practically perfected her masks. She uses adjustable straps she buys through Amazon. On the inside, she sews muslin if she has it, and if not a solid-color material. On the outside she uses two-ply cotton, of course in a fun pattern. She always double stitches the masks, a more durable method for children’s masks. She’s made them in various sizes, including extra small ones when the schools requested them for a few kindergartners with extra small faces. Her fabrics include seasonal patterns — Santa Claus, fireworks, pumpkins, bees and ladybugs — and in every color. Before she sends them out, she irons them and runs them under her low-UV light to make sure they are germ-free.
Bowers said she’s always sewed. “It was natural at home," she said. Her mom taught her and her sisters, and she learned more in her home-economics classes in junior high. She’s been applying these skills for a while now. Years ago, she even made dresses for Ethiopian women.
Besides sending the masks directly to the schools, she makes them for the buses. She’s sent them to many states including Florida, Kentucky, Ohio and Wisconsin. If she sees a need, she has the answer. She’s sent them to the thrift store where she used to volunteer, to Kroger, and to the volunteer fire department. She’s calling aunts and uncles asking if they need one.
She has quite a few thank-you cards in her sewing room from the schools, the bus drivers, the man who came to work on their well, and even Hobby Lobby which included a gift card. Of which she remarks, “I can’t wait to go.”
So far, Bowers has made over 2,000 masks. She’s gone through three machines, is waiting to get one repaired and rethreaded, and has three more upstairs. She isn’t going to waste a single scrap either. She’s going to make a quilt, in which she will piece all of the scraps together.
Her husband has supported her 100% since the beginning. He has even surprised her with fabric, though the fabric store is so unfamiliar to him. She said her heart jumps when he comes home with the fabric, saying “Honey can you use this?”
He’ll be lying in bed at 1 or 2 in the morning, turn over, and smile to the rhythmic sound of the sewing machine. She said when she can’t sleep, why watch TV when she can sew masks?
“She’s in it to the end,” he said.
“Yeah I sure am,” she said. “You give with your heart and let go. You feel that joy. That's what I love.”