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St. Ann Center Employee Stitches Masks to Protect Those on the Front Lines

By April 3, 2020No Comments3 min read

Gloria Miller’s creativity is well known around St. Ann Center. The Bucyrus Campus special events director often uses her flair at work. She donated a stunning original couture gown to last summer’s gala auction, created beautiful tablescapes for the inaugural Indaba Ball in early February – even fringed and beaded several promotional T-shirts for last year’s Indaba Band Shell’s grand opening.

Her current project, while St. Ann Center’s campuses are both temporarily closed because of the pandemic, may seem a lot more humble at first glance, but its purposefulness and scope are powerful.

Staying safer at home, she’s been stitching up dozens of pleated face masks to donate to healthcare workers and visitors through Froedtert Hospital and the Medical College of Wisconsin, using instructions the hospital provided. Three other women – Anna Winkfield, Bobbie Suggs and Hazel Milton, all members of St. Matthew Christian Methodist Episcopal church’s Ida Mae Black Missionary Society along with Gloria – are doing the same. As a team, they’ve completed and delivered nearly 100 masks so far.

Hers are mostly basic white masks, some with colored trim. Gloria’s allergic to some fabric dyes, so given the quantity, she’s working to avoid triggering her allergy. Plain white masks can also be bleached when laundering without worry about fading.

“This has been a fun project,” says Gloria, who remembers sitting on thick phone books at the sewing machine to create clothes, at age 6, for her dolls, under her mother’s watchful eye. This project, she says, “gives us all something useful to do to break up the boredom.”

They’re not the medical grade masks healthcare workers generally use, but because of a widespread shortage of those masks, healthcare organizations nationwide are asking for homemade masks as a stopgap measure.

As word of the church effort spreads, Gloria said, people are sending her $15 or $20 to help her get more fabric and the bias tape that Froedtert requires to ensure a snug fit. Finding supplies on the seam binding low in Milwaukee, she reached out to a friend in another state to send her some.

It’s not the first project she’s committed to with the Missionary Society – last year, a larger group came together to create more than 100 children’s dresses to send to Haiti. That effort got them recognized in the denomination’s national magazine with an article and photos.

But this one certainly hits closer to home. Gloria has family members who were diagnosed with COVID-19 in March, including one who was hospitalized and has since recovered. She’s taken over food for people in quarantine or recovering from the virus, leaving it on the front step and alerting them by phone that it’s there. She’s also stitching up masks for her extended family members, to be on the safe side.

Her church team’s efforts will definitely be appreciated by those who wear the masks, doubly so in light of the critical shortage of personal protective equipment nationwide.

St. Ann Center applauds neighborhood heroes like Gloria and the other members of the Ida Mae Black Missionary Society, quietly using their talents to help keep healthcare workers on the front line safer in their fight against the pandemic.

Can you sew? Want to help? Milwaukee company Wantable is crowd-sourcing the making of 100,000 cotton face masks to donate to heallthcare workers. Anyone who knows how to sew and has access to cotton fabric and a sewing machine can register on their website at




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