MINT HILL, NC – When Autism Services of Mecklenburg County, Inc. (ASMC), a group of skilled women, saw a need that arose from utilizing more PPE (personal protective equipment) than usual, they stepped up to the plate and made a difference. Wanda Darlington took the lead and began making masks for staff at ASMC, donating her own fabric for the cause. Initially, she made fifty masks for Sarah Brock, owner of Pour 64 in Mint Hill. Sarah mentioned to Wanda that there was a need for masks at ASMC. Wanda and her neighbors worked together to sew 100 masks within two weeks.
To ensure that the fabric would not shrink after washing and drying, Wanda cut the fabric on a lined craft mat, each piece measuring 7 by 10. The masks have three sets of pleats to allow for expansion on the wearer’s face for best fit. There was a shortage of elastic for the masks’ headbands and Amy Goodman sewed several ties for the masks. Each mask consists of four ties. Others who helped put together the ties were Sarah Hudson, Tracy Brooks, and Megan Tunno. Tracy cut over 400 pieces of fabric for everyone to iron and fold and stitch. Neighbors also helped. Wanda laundered each mask before giving it to ASMC.
Wanda was introduced to sewing by her grandmother. Her interest grew even more in her early years when she learned sewing techniques in her school’s home economics course. Over the years, she has sewn a lot for her grandchildren and nieces and nephews. Last year, Wanda participated in the Mint Hill Pop Up Christmas Shop, an event around the Town Hall circle. Along with many other artisans, she set up her tent and sold crafts during a nearly five-hour span. Her business is called Stitches by Wanda and she can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for additional sewing services.
They’re “nicely made and sturdy, Marc Phillips, Executive Director/CEO of ASMC, said. The cloth masks have proven beneficial for the company by allowing staff to conserve the medical masks they do have, at least until they can get a reliable supply. “Disposable masks are not cheap,” Marc said. At a dollar each, disposables add up over the days and weeks, and this amount of usage would eat into the budget of any company in these trying times. One hundred masks were a well-timed donation.
Autism Services of Mecklenburg County operates eight group homes for adults with developmental disabilities. One of the first organizations to open a group home in Charlotte, ASMC’s original home consisted of four autistic residents, organized by parents and adult children, and has continually grown since 1978.
Wanda is still making masks and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. The plan for the future is to use elastic around the ears in place of the cloth ties.
This “reminds everyone that we all have something of value to share,” Amy Goodman said. “This effort truly did take a little village.”