4,000 masks and counting: Md. mother, son duo continue producing face masks

Piles of folded cloth face masks.
These are some of the many cloth face masks Suzi Henderson and her son Alex, of North Potomac, Maryland, have been making to protect people amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Courtesy Suzi Henderson)

A Montgomery County, Maryland, mother and her 13-year-old son haven’t stopped making cloth face masks to protect people amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The North Potomac family began in the spring, making masks for nurses and first responders. Now, after making 4,000 masks, the community service venture continues with their latest beneficiaries coming from a veterans’ home hard-hit by COVID-19.

Once area health care workers were suitably equipped with personal protective equipment, Suzi Henderson turned her attention and her sewing skills to other people who were not able to work from home and needed protection amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We started giving to supermarket workers, coffee shops, teachers, hardware stores, anywhere we would go, we would ask, ‘Oh, by the way, do you guys need some masks,'” said Henderson.

In many cases, the prints on the colorful cloth masks made were germane to the mask wearer’s job. The barristers’ masks had a coffee theme, there were fruits and vegetables on the masks of grocery store workers and images of transistor radios decorated the masks of news reporters.

Now, the Charlotte Hall Veterans Home in St. Mary’s County is a new client for the Hendersons. The goal is to create hundreds of double layer cloth face masks, made by Suzi with help from Alex.

“They asked for fun, festive Christmas fabric and patriotic fabric,” said Henderson.

And her plans go further as she is enlisting the help of the coaches, parents and kids of Alex’s hockey team, the Tri-City Eagles in Laurel, Maryland, to collect items for the veterans home’s holiday bazaar on Dec. 16.

The massive project has not been without expense to the family. Henderson said she accepts any suitable fabric donations as the duo plan to make 1,000 more masks.

“We used over 500 yards of fabric, we try to find fabrics where we can for a cheap price,” said Henderson.

The fabric masks don’t just look good; they provide comfortable coverage and allow ease of talking as best as a fabric mask can.

They are also made to meet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines of having at least two layers of washable breathable fabric, completely covering the nose and mouth and fitting snuggling on the sides of the face.

Henderson’s pattern has undergone 10 refinements since the spring, based on feedback from nurses and other users, to offer the best protection.

Despite the challenges, the mother and son duo said that they are committed to their community service.

“We cannot put into words how much satisfaction we get by being able to help,” said Henderson.

Alex, who suggested in the spring making masks for first responders, has consistently helped his mother up to four days a week in her sewing room measuring and cutting fabric.

“The demand never stops, so as long as there is the demand we have to keep making them,” said Alex, “Helping the community, it feels like a connection. When we help people I can feel their gratitude and everyone’s happy,” he said.

Working on masks has helped keep Alex positive as he found virtual learning a struggle at first. But once he adapted to a new routine, the Landon School 7th grade student saw better results.

His positive attitude translates to high hopes for a future over the coronavirus. Alex said he hopes that some day, there will be no need for the family to make masks.

“I think we can pull through,” Alex said. “The vaccine is right there and once we get the vaccine … once we have everyone vaccinated and if the vaccine works then I think we’ll be OK.”

Like WTOP on Facebook and follow @WTOP on Twitter to engage in conversation about this article and others.

Get breaking news and daily headlines delivered to your email inbox by signing up here.

© 2020 WTOP. All Rights Reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

More from WTOP

Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up