Verona residents are stepping up to offer their sewing and mask-making talents in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Badger Prairie Needs Network, Verona Area High School and Verona Police Department have been among the beneficiaries of the sewers’ generosity.

The mask donations have helped support essential workers and volunteers during the quarantine.

Laura Mayer works as a special education assistant at Glacier Edge Elementary School. She has three children in the Verona school district.

Her connection with VASD led her to contact Kelly Kloepping, the district’s public information officer.

“I had begun making masks for myself and family and found it to be a pretty simple process and knew I wanted to continue making more to donate,” Mayer said. “I reached out to Kelly asking if any of our staff would benefit from masks, knowing that we had many Verona School District employees who were still asked to be in the schools and out in the community. She heard back from the nutrition staff right away and I got to work.”

Kristi Johnson, who used to work in the Verona school district, has volunteered at Badger Prairie Needs Network for around 15 years. Now, she’s sewing masks for other volunteers.

She has been joined by four members from her church, Sugar River United Methodist – Sharon Bartholomew, Sharon Billmeyer, Beth McDonnell and Barb Vander Pas – and non-member Sue Willet.

The women who belong to Sugar River are a part of its Share and Care Team. They have made dresses for girls in Africa and have lent their services to the community mending days at BPNN.

Johnson said it takes them around 45 minutes to finish each mask, but that they have been “cranking” them out. She said the church ladies have donated a combined 172 masks to BPNN and Willet another 40 to the pantry on her own. They’ve also donated 65 masks to the Dane County Sheriff’s Department and 18 to the clerk’s office at Verona City Hall.

“We’re just doing it because it needs to be done, because it’s needed,” she said.

Verona resident Judy Pertzborn, like Mayer, got started by making masks for family members – sending them across the country to two daughters and a sister in Texas and one daughter in Maryland. She was moved to sew masks because one of her daughters in Texas works in a private nursing home.

One day she went to the post office to mail some of her masks and as she was heading inside, a police officer in the drive-thru asked Pertzborn where she’d gotten her mask, because it was Green Bay Packers themed.

After telling him she had made it herself, “he looked disappointed he couldn’t buy one,” she said.

Mayer estimates it took her around eight hours to make two dozen masks for the VASD nutrition team. The school district’s nutrition staff has continued serving meals to families during the state’s “Safer at Home” order.

She has been using whatever materials she’s been able to scrounge up at home including various cotton quilt prints, cotton sheets and old T-shirts are cut for the strings. She creates a double layer of cotton with a pocket for an optional filter.

Following a Facebook post by the school district thanking her for the donation, Mayer has received requests for approximately three dozen more masks.

Badger Prairie Needs Network referred to its mask makers as “guardian angels” in an email newsletter highlighting volunteers. Some of the masks have been distributed to pantry guests during its curbside pickups, the email stated.

“We appreciate this act of kindness and caring more than we can say,” BPNN leadership wrote in the email.

Johnson said having enough materials has not been a real issue because she hoards fabric. However, as elastic has been hard to find, she transitioned to making masks with fabric ties.

Pertzborn decided she’d make the cheese heads at Verona Police Department masks like hers. She used to make her children’s clothing, so she’s long had a sewing machine, but said she had not made anything lately before the masks for her family.

Her sister, Mary Hesseling, who works at State Bank Of Cross Plains in Verona, provided Pertzborn with the face mask pattern and Packers fabric.

She ended up making 16 masks for VPD, stopping because she’d used up all of the green and gold fabric.

Pertzborn said she hasn’t thought about making any more to donate yet. However, she just sent some masks off to a friend of her daughter in Maryland. She has run out of the elastic and interfacing and said she’s having trouble finding more.

Mayer said others in the community can get involved like all these women have.

“If you can sew, masks are a pretty quick and easy way to help out. With just a little research, it’s easy to find a lot of places looking for donations and every little bit helps,” she said. “I’ve been researching a bit as to where I’ll donate next but haven’t yet decided on a particular place. I’d like to stay as local as possible to help out our community here. I’m so grateful to all those many essential workers out there in our community.”

Neal Patten, community reporter, can be contacted at neal.patten@wcinet.com.