May 25, 2020

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home : local news : local news

3/26/2020 8:29:00 AM Email this articlePrint this article 
Sewing hope: Vincennes University community making and donating face masks
VINCENNES, Ind. - The whirring sound of sewing machines can be heard inside the homes of many Vincennes University employees. Fingers of all ages and experience levels rush to 'sew hope' by making homemade masks for community members. All in an effort to help curb the spread of COVID-19.

Gratitude is pouring in to VU employees and all who are joining in this mission.

"Having a child that falls into the high risk category with a congenital heart defect we have to take extra precautions to keep him healthy during this pandemic. Knowing that our community has people out there like Cassie (Vennard) willing to take time out of her day to help keep people like Miles safe makes me feel so proud to be a part of it," said Mallory Squires of Knox County.

Vincennes University's homemade face masks are being shared with families, healthcare workers, retail store and pharmacy employees, hospitals, government agencies aiding children, and more. We implore others to join in this effort.

Demand for masks is high as the supply chain has struggled to keep up.

Susan Brocksmith, Department Chair for VU's Agribusiness and Cosmetology programs, answered a social media request asking for masks. She has assembled a team of friends and family to make masks for Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes, Ind. She's sewing masks, collecting donations of cleaning supplies for cancer patients, and teaching remotely among other things, but that's not stopping her from doing all she can to help in a time of need.

"Part of the reason that we're on this earth is to help others," she said.

Cassie Vennard didn't even own a sewing machine and hadn't used one since middle school when she was asked to help. She had simply been asked to donate materials. However, she wanted to do more.

She used a donated sewing machine to create masks before ordering a new one, and has since produced more than 145 masks with the help of her children and husband, Jonathan Vennard, an instructor in VU's Advanced CNC and Programming program.

The family's first donations went to the Knox County Department of Child Services and a nursing home facility in Odon, Ind. She's currently making masks for first responders and Good Samaritan Hospital.

"I wanted to help people in our community and it's really easy to put these masks together," she said. "Orders are flowing in from grocery store workers and factory workers that work at facilities that have been deemed essential business. I'll keep helping until I can't anymore or run out of fabric. These are unprecedented times and creating this workflow at my kitchen table that is helping people and giving them a sense of security is in turn helping me cope with my own feelings about being quarantined at home with my family."

Karen O'Connor is doing her part, while also practicing social distancing. The VU Pharmacy Technology Program Chair and Instructor has made about 50 masks. She is repurposing never-worn scrubs into masks that are double layered and washable. Once a mask is complete, it is washed and sanitized before being delivered.

"The community is coming together as a team," O'Connor said. "People have tapped into their resources and said, 'Who can sew? and What can we do?' We're all a community. It's a network of here is what they need and who do we have to do it." "I can fill a pharmacy order a day. You have to cut the pattern, sew them all together, sterilize them, and deliver them."

Join the VU family in the fight against the coronavirus. Use your needles and threads, and help others at the same time. Instructions how to make masks, including patterns, can also be found courtesy of The Turban Project at

Want to help?

Deaconess Women's Hospital in Evansville, Ind. has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and kindness from the community, country, and world. It is one of many hospitals asking for face masks. Get instructions at

Family rooms are being transformed into sewing workshops and people are sharing fabric and patterns. While we may be apart physically we are together in a unified mission to help others. The VU community applauds and encourages this community effort.


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