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Pins & Needles Creates Masks for UH Caregivers

Like many of her friends and neighbors, Jan Brostek felt helpless and confused as she watched the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the country, devastating lives and livelihoods in the process. Owner/operator of the beloved sewing and craft store Pins & Needles, her worry extended beyond her family to include her customers, her business and the greater community. 

“When you face so many unknowns, it helps when you can find something productive you CAN do,” said Jan. “When UH called and said, ‘we need help, we need facemasks,’ that’s all it took. After that, we developed a pattern, got fabric donated and found cutters to cut it, and made a video tutorial to train our sewers. The video went viral and we couldn’t make the sewing kits fast enough – like me, people desperately wanted something they could do to help.”

Together, Jan and the local sewing community have made over 100,000 masks for UH and area hospitals. “I can’t thank our amazing sewers enough,” she said. “Their compassion and generosity have raised up during these tough times and inspired us to keep going.” 

Jan and her son, Connor, created the Million Mask Challenge to give the global sewing community an aspirational goal and encourage them to support their own communities. The response has shocked them. “We thought a million was a big number, but we’ve surpassed 24 million masks worldwide. It can take you to tears to think about how fast it all happened.”

The effort has been profoundly meaningful for the Brostek family. “Three years ago, my daughter was very sick and spent months at UH,” shared Jan. “I was there every day and am grateful for all they did – it feels really good to give back.”

As proud as she is of her fellow sewers, Jan knows the work is not done. “Masks are still important and are very much needed: Rainbow needs children’s masks in smaller sizes, the food bank needs masks for their volunteers, and hospitals from here to Akron have called asking for our help,” she said. 

“To all our sewers, please keep going. Keep sewing and keep passing your love to others. Our community needs us.”

University Hospitals is grateful to all individuals and organizations willing to help our caregivers, patients and community during the COVID-19 crisis. Community response and caregiver support funds have been established to support the extensive patient care, medical supplies, research and education needs. 

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