On March 13, Sheila and Edward Nichols took their parents, Donna and Steve, out of their senior apartment and moved them in with them. They had watched the news on the west coast and knew this would impact the Midwest soon enough. They had seen the heartbreaking photos of seniors locked inside with no visitors and didn’t want the same thing to happen to them. With their underlying health issues at 87 and 88 years old, they knew that COVID-19 would not be kind to them if they contracted the virus. They quarantined themselves starting that day.

To pass the time, the Nichols family watched a lot of news. There, they saw the families impacted.

“We sit here in our big, comfortable house,” recalled Sheila. “We are warm, we are fed, we are among loved ones, yet the world seems to be turning upside down.”

Donna sits at the table with her sewing machine and stacks of fabric masks.

Donna and Steve started to share their memories of living through WWII as children. They talked of picking milkweed pods and cattails to make life preservers for the sailors. About saving and flattening aluminum cans, silver gum wrappers and victory gardens. It changed their world forever and were feeling similarities again.

They then began to hear of the mask shortage.

“We not only have health care workers without protection, but we have new warriors out there – shopping, selling and delivering – with no protection,” Sheila said. “When we heard about organizations asking for homemade masks, we knew this was something we could do.”

They immediately rallied behind the initiative and cleaned out their stashes of cotton fabric and elastic. They even ordered another sewing machine. When they exhausted their fabric supply, they ordered more.

“We began our own war effort in our dining room in Plymouth. Dad carefully cuts the elastic to the correct length. Mom sews the masks from the fabric I have cut – alternating from the sewing machine to resting her legs while she turns them inside out.”

The count is up to 1,000 and still going strong. New fabric arrives weekly – giving them something to look forward to. They love seeing the pictures of friends and health care workers wearing the masks.

Their effort gets more personal as their sister, Dr. Stacy Nichols, works for Hutchinson Health. She told them that they had started collecting masks for use in non-patient facing positions.

“We were honored to be able to support such a wonderful organization, and one that is so close to our hearts – part of the family. And, supporting Stacy made us proud.”

The Nichols family isn’t slowing down anytime soon. They enjoying seeing the piles grow and have a sense of accomplishment when they are ready to be shipped.
When asked why they want to help others, they see it as no-brainer.

Steve measures and cuts elastic for the masks.

“When you give a part of yourself to a worthy organization, you get back tenfold. During these tumultuous times, you need to lend a hand any way you can. There is distance between us, but there is no lack of unity in our fight to overcome this and become stronger because of it.

“It gives us joy to see that we are making a tiny difference.”
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