Ellen Stoyek of Curwensville shows off a selection of face masks she sewed in response to a request from her sister who is a nurse at a medical facility in Hershey.

A Curwensville woman answered her sister’s call for help, creating face masks to be distributed to medical personnel.

As cases of COVID-19 coronavirus began to grow across the southeastern section of Pennsylvania, Ellen Stoyek and her sister Kathy Wheeler, also of Curwensville, were called on to put their sewing skills and fabric-fashioning talents to the test by making fabric face masks.

“A couple weeks ago, my sister messaged me to ask if we could make make face masks to help with COVID-19,” Stoyek said. Their sister, Mary Muller, is a nurse at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.

She said those early days of March there were days of uncertainty for hospital personnel because they weren’t sure whether there was enough personal protective equipment to keep them safe.

Stoyek said the message was prompted after someone her sister knows had to reuse a face mask.

“Everyone was in a bit of a panic,” Stoyek said.

Stoyek said she has been sewing for approximately 45 years and as the person who does the sewing at Joe’s One Hour Cleaners in Clearfield, Muller knew she could count on her to crank up her sewing machine and begin churning out masks. Stoyek said she had not made anything like the masks before.

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“My sister sent a pattern. There was quite a bit involved in it,” she explained. Each takes approximately 15 minutes to make.

She said the masks are made of two layers — a cotton fabric outer layer and softer flannel inside closer to the face. Elastic is sewn on both ends. Stoyek said Wheeler is a quilter so getting the cotton fabric for the fronts was not a problem.

The two women made approximately 60 masks that were distributed to Hershey Medical Center and Mountain Laurel Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. Some will also be given to Penn Highlands. Stoyek said sewing the masks helped her to fill the time as the dry cleaners has not been operating on its regular schedule.

“We haven’t been open so I’ve had time to spare.”

She said she was glad to make the masks.

“I feel as though this helped a little bit.”