Volunteers stitch together to sew creative masks


Judy Perez Diaz

Creating masks that fit someone’s personality makes this now required accessory stylish.

Jordan Noeuku '21, Staff Reporter

Wearing a mask is life changing, as it helps keep the community safe from COVID-19. 

Since the outbreak of this pandemic in January 2019, thousands of businesses have been forced to shut down and send their employees home, leaving many of  them jobless. With the mask companies running out of stock, local businesses were able to take advantage of the situation to create jobs and help provide masks to the community, and also help employ themselves. 

Judy Perez Diaz, decided to make them on her own. “When I first learned of the virus, I was scared and felt helpless.  I wanted to somehow help, but did not know how.  I saw a request on Facebook for masks so I decided to make a few to donate to my friends who work in the health industry.”

Diaz added, “I received quite a few requests and quickly realized that there was a great need.  I don’t need to know the people in order to know that my act is helping others.  One day I went to the Tenderloin to make a delivery, and I saw so many people out in the streets and it is so heartbreaking.  In the middle of all of the sadness there are families with children walking down those streets, and those are the people I would like to help the most.”

She also said, “I mail them to friends and family, and there is one person that I work with from San Francisco General  Hospital who is helping distribute to the homeless, and she is my main contact that I work with.  I also work with a FB group named ‘Masks for Santa Clara Nurses.” 

Melinda Sciutto-Creps has been active in the mask-making community since the pandemic began.

“Depending on the style, making one takes anywhere from 15-20 minutes each,” Diaz said. “I like to cut and prep everything first and then concentrate on sewing. I learned how to sew when I was 10 years old.  My mother, who was a seamstress, taught me.   When I was in high school (ICA), I took a sewing class with Mrs. (Terry) Hodges, and I learned how to use a pattern.  My mother did not use patterns.”

Diaz also said, “I was charging $10 for each, but have decided to go back to donating only.  Selling them puts a lot of pressure on me.  Honestly, I prefer to give them to people, especially to those who were not expecting one.  People usually donate money to me to purchase more fabric. For me, it is important to do it because I know that there are people out there who do not have access to purchasing a mask.  I believe that we will need to wear these for a while and we need more than one.”

Diaz said her Catholic school education instilled in her a resolve to help others in the community.  “I attended St. Peter’s Class of 1984 and ICA Class of 1988.  My daughter is currently attending St. Peter’s School, and I am working in the after school program. When I attended St. Peter’s we were always giving back to our own community.  Even though as a school we did not have much, we were always taught to give what you can.”

Masks come different kinds of sizes, shapes, designs, and colors. (Provided by Judy Perez Diaz)

She continued, “My mother always taught us to be grateful for what we have and she never complained about what we didn’t have.  I believe that it is her faith that has taught her to be that way and in turn, she taught us to be the same way.  My faith has taught me to help those in need.  It doesn’t have to be monetarily, it can be with a simple act of kindness.  My faith has taught me that when we do good for others, we will be happy. I have faith that we will get through this pandemic.” 

Julia Balistreri, a science teacher at Riordan High School, is also making masks. She said,  “My mother, luckily, had some masks left over from when California was on fire. However, I found those restrict my breathing so much that it just makes me panic. So, I found some elastic online and had some chemistry themed cloth as a gift from a colleague back in Oregon, and hand made masks. I do not have a sewing machine so I have hand sewn all the masks I have made, and stabbed myself a great number of times with a needle.”

She continued, “These masks are great because we throw them in the washing machine after the week and clean them. I am currently in the process of making more so that we each have at least two to three masks and can switch them after every use so as to better ensure no cross contamination or, the accidental putting on the mask the wrong way.”

Making masks for those who need them is a labor of love for Judy Perez Diaz. (Provided by Judy Perez Diaz)

Balistreri said, “At this point, I am thankful for quarantine and grateful for any person who is adhering to the stay at home/social distancing order. By staying at home we are helping prevent others from getting sick, keeping our hospitals open for treatments outside of COVID and honestly, it is the least we can do. Though the end time of this wildfire virus is unknown, slowing down the number of cases, especially within the densely populated Bay Area, is the best thing we can do right now.” 

“In order to protect myself and my family, I have stayed home a LOT. If we venture outside, we make sure to do it safely. My husband and I take walks every morning at 6am when no one is really outside yet, and make sure to move (safely) into the street if we do come across someone so we always have a 6 feet distance from others,” she said. 

Jalen Alexander Wood ’22 said,  “I have multiple masks which are homemade. I’m somehow comfortable and uncomfortable wearing them. Everyone in my family has a mask.”

He added “Also, my aunt has made over 1,000 herself and donated them. She donated to different tribes in the Navajo nation, the migrants south of the border, hospitals, and hospice home care, as well as Alameda County social services. She works from home on two sewing machines. There’s not enough masks for the people in society. We need something better to manage this.”

Richard Ramayl ’21 said, “I started having a mask the second week of quarantine. I think it’s safe because it helps cover my mouth from breathing anything dangerous. I feel very comfortable as long as it is safe and all my family has a self made mask from a family friend.”

He added, “My mask was made by a family friend. I feel kinda dumb wearing a mask sometimes, and I hope one day I can breathe like a regular person again.”