Everything was lined up for obstetrics nurse Susan Howland to return to work in March after her husband’s return from deployment, but when area hospitals started furloughing contracted workers and she had to begin homeschooling her children due to statewide school closures, Howland’s plans were dashed.
Though Howland and her husband also own and operate a honey bee farm and a small business called The Burlap Bee, she and her friend, Hillsboro resident Michelle Clemons, began sewing masks.
“I’m just trying to do my part for my friends from home,” Howland said. “I used to work at Kettering, and I thought, ‘The girls at Kettering would love to have these as a second layer.’ Michelle has her own design business, and we both stopped what we were doing in the design-business part of it to sew these masks.”
In order to sew the masks, Howland said she typically has to juggle sewing with helping her elementary-aged children with their schoolwork and caring for her baby.
“I’ve been carrying the baby, helping with schoolwork, and working on these masks in sections,” Howland said. “I’ll sew them all one way, stop to play with the baby, then turn the masks and finish the tops.”
Howland estimates that she’s sewed about 500 masks in between her children’s nap times and schoolwork.
“I haven’t had to buy fabric at all. I’ve just been using scraps I’ve been hoarding,” Howland said. “My mom calls me a hoarder all the time. She would say, ‘These pieces are all scraps. You’re never going to do anything with them,’ and when this all broke out, I just laughed and thought, ‘It’s my time to shine.’”
Howland put each nurse’s name on their mask in vinyl, and after the nurses received their masks, Howland sent them pictures of the sewing projects the fabric for the masks had come from, including curtains, a baby blanket and a quilt.
“It’s almost like, ‘I can’t be there with you, but I’m here in spirit every day,’” she said.
In addition to Kettering Health Network, Howland has donated masks to nurses in hospitals in Florida, Tennessee and Missouri.
She has also left masks on the table for food donations that Small Town Fitness and Grillers and Chillers owner Robert Arthurs set up in front of his Greenfield businesses. In a post in the “Greenfield Daily Times” Facebook group on April 7, Howland requested that community members leave food or hygiene items on the table for every mask they took.
Howland said the table was empty when she left the masks, but when she drove back by about 30 minutes later, the masks were gone and the table was full of bags and boxes of food.
“When I had extras, I thought, ‘I’m just going to start throwing them out in the community because Mr. Trump said everyone who’s out and about should have one, and you can’t buy them,’” Howland said. “I’ve been putting them out on the table because there’s no contact that way, and people can go get them if they want them.”
Howland hasn’t been asking for monetary donations, but some of her nurse friends have donated enough to cover shipping, and Roman Family HealthCare in Greenfield donated $200 to help cover additional elastic for the masks.
Howland and her husband own and operate Howland Farms, a honeybee farm, and a small business called The Burlap Bee, through which they sell products like honey, beeswax candles, face scrubs and T-shirts. Howland has a private Facebook group, “The Burlap BEE,” which people can request to join.
Michelle Clemons’ business, Creations from Chaos, can be found on Facebook.
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.