June 7, 2021 Community Stories
Masks of Hope Sew Community Support
Sue Kranz’s second-hand sewing machine, bought for $5 at a tag sale, was “sitting around gathering dust.” She didn’t know how to use it.
But when COVID-19 ushered in a community need for face masks, she watched instructional YouTube videos “forever,” she said. The rest is history.
She fired up the machine and sewed more than 2,500 masks in a range of colorful fabrics and patterns. Many can be found on the faces of her neighbors across Western Massachusetts.
While she gave away more than half the masks to schools and area residents from all walks of life, Kranz also raised funds through sales and donations for the remaining masks. She donated the proceeds (after expenses) to nonprofits including the Community Foundation, Stone Soup Café in Greenfield, and the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts.
Kranz was confident the community would get behind her latest foray. She resided in Charlemont for 14 years. Before retirement, she enjoyed jobs as an elementary school teacher, music therapist, librarian, Spanish interpreter, and counselor. (She now lives in Boston while caring for her mother).
Kranz, by her own account “a very industrious, high-energy person,” set her mind to mask-making when she got an email from Ashfield Needles and Threads (ANTS) about the idea. An avid knitter, she put out a call for fabrics to her connections on various local listservs, quilt stores, galleries, and the Shelburne Arts Cooperative.
“I love the idea of collecting things, repurposing them, and then sharing them with people for whom they serve best. I had a beautiful batik vest that I never wore because I didn’t like the collar. Well, I wear it now as a mask!”
Kranz recounted many serendipitous stories of connection with area residents.
“There was a guy at a gas station wearing a very uncomfortable-looking camoflauge mask. I offered to make him one and then he bought three. He was from Haiti and said he’d love one with a Haitian flag. I got the fabric on eBay and made it for him. Now, when I go in for coffee or gas, he’s wearing it. He says, ‘That’s the best.’”
“We were all starving for connection, and the mask project allowed me to connect with so many people,” she reflected.
Philanthropy Officer Bianca Walker said, “It’s been incredibly moving to see so many first-time donors like Sue Kranz step up to make an impact in the community through the Foundation. Philanthropy takes many forms, and Sue’s was so creative! We are grateful for her donations to our Covid-19 Response Fund and Annual Fund, and for the wonderful community connections she literally sewed in the process!”