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Cassandra Jones, an information security specialist at NNSA's Savannah River Field Office, sews masks to share with others during the coronavirus pandemic.
Cassandra Jones, an information security specialist at NNSA's Savannah River Field Office, sews masks to share with others during the coronavirus pandemic.

With face masks in short supply to protect her friends, family, and essential workers against the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, one hero at the Savannah River Site (SRS) in South Carolina has stepped up to the challenge. Cassandra Jones, an information security specialist, has harnessed her sewing talents to produce masks that can help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“I saw it as something I could do to give back to my community,” Jones said.

Sewing has been Jones’ hobby and passion since she was 12 years old. For as long as she can remember, she has enjoyed creating unique stitched gifts for her family and friends. Starting in March of this year, she began crafting home-sewn masks for her immediate and extended family.

I saw it as something I could do to give back to my community.

Cassandra Jones
Information Security Specialist in the Savannah River Field Office

Soon though, like a caring aunt or big sister always there to help, she was making masks for anyone in need – local nursing home residents, people who can’t leave their homes, postal employees, bank tellers, and fast food workers – basically anyone she encountered who was not wearing a mask.

As Jones notes, during the ongoing virus quarantine, some everyday tasks must continue, such as the need to buy groceries, visit pharmacies, and attend to other essential outings. In instances when social distancing is challenging to maintain, cloth face masks are strongly recommended by public health authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Wearing a cloth face mask can help the wearer and others nearby.

“I give them to people on the spot,” Jones said, “When I give the masks, I put them in special bags with a message of encouragement.” So far, she’s made more than 160 masks, including a few dozen that she will be sending to Emory University in Atlanta after she saw a televised plea from a nurse there who needed personal protective equipment.

Though she picked up a few tips from YouTube, the talent comes naturally. Just as many people can play music by ear, she is naturally able to sew masks without a template.

A collection of the masks Cassandra Jones has sewn.
A collection of the masks Cassandra Jones has sewn.

“I don’t use patterns. I sew by sight,” Jones said, “I just cut the material and see what turns out.”

In addition to cutting the material, the mask-making process includes pre-washing, ironing, cutting, and sewing the material. It takes her about four hours to produce 12 masks. As a crafter, she already had some material on hand, and admirers have also donated fabric to keep her sewing machine humming.

Like many others, Jones has been teleworking from her home for the past several weeks while maintaining her work requirements for the NNSA staff at SRS. But not much has changed on the sewing front. Before the pandemic, she would return to her New Ellenton, South Carolina home and work on her latest sewing project. On weekends, she would get up early and sew until late in the evening.

“Now, during the pandemic, I get off telework and sew masks – and on the weekends, since I can’t go shopping, I sew some more. Sewing is my passion,” Jones said.