Nona May loves to sew and was already making masks at home for the friends and family. Now she and four other RTC staff members spend their work days spread out at stations in the cafeteria sewing masks for the college community.
They hope to make as many as 2,000 masks in the coming weeks in preparation for an eventual return to campus, when everyone will be required to wear them.
Security Director Matt Vielbig developed the idea to allow employees like May, lead cashier in the cafeteria, whose jobs don’t lend themselves to working from home and were instead doing professional development, to focus on making masks.
“Prioritizing and distributing personal protective equipment during the pandemic has been a difficult task,” Vielbig said. “After hearing about the incredible work some of our staff were doing, making masks in their spare time, it seemed like a perfect fit to utilize their talent toward protecting the community and helping to stop the spread of COVID-19.”
May jumped right in.
“It began as a small project, and it just ballooned,” May said as she ran her sewing machine, stitching together a red mask. “If this is going to help us get back to college sooner, you bet I’ll help. I will be sitting here making masks until the masks are done.”
She teamed up with Kristin Gamez-Metivier, a cashier in the Business Office, who also was sewing masks at home. May tried out several patterns and came up with one with a universal fit and helped Vielbig know how much material to order. Elastic is hard to find these days, so they improvised and found other materials. The masks are red, RTC’s signature color.
“It’s pretty cool we get to use the skills that we have in this way,” Gamez-Metivier said. “And sharing this with these women, we have all gotten know each other better.
They brought their sewing machines to work, and soon others, even beginning sewers, were helping cut patterns, and create masks, with two machines purchased by the college. They practice social distancing and sanitation protocols and wear masks at all times. Also participating are Colleen Arndt, administrative assistant in College and Career Pathways; Lorraine Ayers, a clerk in Food Services; and Phuong Tran, a cashier in Food Services. They all volunteered, and work their regular hours.
RTC plans to hold summer in-person labs while practicing social and physical distancing and cleanliness protocols. Anyone on campus will be required to wear a mask. Catering Manager Lindsay Tanzi, who supervises Food Service employees, is grateful for May’s leadership and everyone’s participation. May regularly greets visitors to the cafeteria with a broad smile and hug.
“Nona is the heartbeat of Building I. She knows everybody’s name and cares so much about our students,” Tanzi said. “She is using her skills and her passion for the RTC community. Instead of giving them a hug, she can give them a mask.”
May said it’s a been group effort, and she’s glad to be part of it.
“There’s a lot of hands that made this possible,” May said. “We want to be part of a project that is for the good.”