Sue Giljum is protecting others from COVID-19 with her sewing machine. Sue, 72, and her husband, John, 74, have been staying in their South County home, but they, and other family members have formed a team—a mask team.
Sue learned how to make the masks from a quilt company. And since she has seven granddaughters and has made dresses for them over the years, she had plenty of material to work with. “I surprised my husband at how much of a stash I had,” she says. The only thing they had to buy was elastic.
John cuts the cloth strips to the proper length, and Sue turns out two masks per hour. Since early March, they have completed more than 120 masks.
Their daughter, Carrie Wetzel, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Bethesda Referral Coordinator, is the distributor of the masks to non-clinical Bethesda employees at its various communities.
“I heard from some of the Administrators and Directors of Nursing about the need for masks, and asked my parents what they thought about expanding their mask making beyond family,” Carrie says.
They thought it was a great idea, and it became a much larger family operation. There are the seven granddaughters, ranging in age from 21-8:
The five oldest granddaughters were some of Sue and John’s first customers and, according to Sue, served as mask models. The two youngest grandchildren—Ellie, 11 and Grace, 8—have their own operation, designing and writing “encouragement cards.” The girls use a Cricut Machine to cut out designs for the front of the cards, and draw things like rainbows or flowers on the cards. The cards include messages on the inside like, “I hope you had a good day.” Carrie distributes the cards to Bethesda residents.
“My parents are both very active and involved with friend groups, church, and family, so I worried about them during their stay-at-home time because I’m an over-protective daughter,” Carrie says. “I am so proud of them for turning their free time into a volunteer opportunity.”
“We just wanted to help out,” Sue says. “In a small way we feel like we have.”
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