Saint Andrew Members:

Heart Connectors & Life Renewers

This page tells the inspiring stories of St. Andrew members who are Connecting Hearts and Renewing Lives

in Iowa City, Johnson County, the State of Iowa, and far beyond.

St. Andrew Members Start Up Mask-Making Ministries

As a former Home Ec teacher and a longtime member of Sewing For Others, Mary Mixdorf is used to having her needlework sent to far-off places like Haiti, Guatemala, and other sites with ministry connections to St. Andrew Presbyterian Church. 

So when the Oaknoll Retirement Residence locked down its facilities last month in response to COVID-19 concerns, Mary realized she could use her skills as a seamstress for a mission much closer to home.

Working with her longtime friend and former teaching colleague, Pat Lehnertz, Mary began scouring YouTube videos to learn how to create cloth face masks. After a few days of watching videos and transcribing the directions, the pair organized a dozen fellow Oaknoll residents to serve as an assembly line production team. 

“We only had about five sew-ers in the group, but we also had cutters and ironers, and we even had a quality care person who checked them at the end,” Mary said.

Over the next few weeks, the team created nearly 750 cloth masks to distribute to the Oaknoll staff, to laundry workers at the University of Iowa, and to the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department

“They didn’t want butterflies and flowers and things on their masks,” Mary said of the Sheriff’s Department. “So they provided fabric for that: a dark green.”

Mary’s team has depended heavily on people outside Oaknoll for collecting supplies — especially for tracking down elastic for ears and bendable aluminum for nose support. And St. Andrew staff and volunteers have been a key source for much of that material.

Sewing for Others

Other members of St. Andrew’s Sewing For Others ministry have been busy using their talents and available time to help slow the spread of the new coronavirus:

  • Joellen Roffman worked with Randy and Peggy Hausler and others to collect supplies to get into the hands of sew-ers and quilters.  
  • Lucy Koontz cut material for 114 face masks from the quilt fabric she has bought over the years. (They were given to the Oaknoll team to finish.)
  • Maggie Dameron has been making masks for family and the Iowa City Free Medical Clinic.  
  • Janice Hining took 40 masks to her church, Sharon Center United Methodist, and delivered another 29 to the local chapter of Days for Girls
  • Margie Loomer has sewn about 50 masks, giving them to family, neighbors, nursing homes, and the Shelter House.
  • Marylu Watkins has three generations of her family working on masks. They started out making about 30 for a pediatrician’s office, then they began making masks for two nursing homes, two pharmacies, a medical clinic, and a physical therapy office. (They have an order for 300 masks for the steel mill in Wilton.)
  • Kaitlin Lamkins has cut masks for Mary Roffman-Nixon and Joellen Roffman to sew for friends, family, and the Wayne County Hospital in Corydon.
  • Ginni Gibson has made masks for her family and about 50 for the Iowa City Face Mask Project.

St. Andrew member Janice Baldes also has been pulling on her professional and entrepreneurial experience to organize Face Masks for Johnson County Iowa/COVID19.

“I took on a role of coordinator and made sure that we had a source to get the masks to and that the style of the mask matched what was needed,” Janice said.

Over the past month, Janice has helped develop kits for masks to distribute to more than 40 sew-ers -- including Twila Finkelstein, Kathryn Wallace, Becka Simpson, Beth Jorgensen, Kathy Duys, Tamera Penning, Susie Engelhardt, and Kari and Emma Gibson. Another dozen mask-makers are using their own supplies and following the written and video instruction Janice and others have helped compile.

The effort already has resulted in more than 1,000 masks being donated to UI Hospitals and Clinics.

Janice says she is amazed and inspired by the “huge exchange of love” happening between the people who make the masks and the people who receive them. She gets regular reports on how overwhelmingly the recipients are to learn there are so many people making masks to give to them.

“So they feel loved, and then I turn around and I post their message to our Facebook group, and the seamstresses get totally filled up and want to keep sewing,” Janice says.

Mary Mixdorf likewise reports that Oaknoll’s mask-making ministry has changed strangers into colleagues and friends.

“At first, I didn’t know many of the people on this team,” she said. “I may have recognized some of the faces, but I didn’t know them well. Now, I know them very well, and they have personalities like I couldn’t believe.”

It’s unclear how long the current need for face masks will continue. The Centers for Disease Control recommend wearing cloth face covering in public settings where social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. But St. Andrew’s sew-ers stand ready to ramp up or dial down their efforts as needed.

How to help

How to help if you can sew?

The website for the Old Capitol Quilters Guild includes a wealth of updated information on tracking down supplies, finding patterns for different mask styles, and communicating the various groups helping deliver the masks to people who need them.

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