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So Far, Sew Good

District superintendent’s wife organizes effort to craft face masks for health care workers on the front lines.

Lisa W. Dillon, wife of Appalachian Ministry Network Superintendent David W. Dillon, is on a mission. She is sewing face masks to help meet the dire need of health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. This grassroots effort to arm medical personnel with face masks during the current crisis continues to expand — with requests coming in daily, sometimes hourly — for more face masks.

“We have hospitals, clinics, doctor’s offices, and other medical facilities that have absolutely nothing in their supply,” says Dillon, 58. “God has presented us with an opportunity to show the love of Christ to those who need it the most right now: health care workers.”

The shortage in the medical community first hit Dillon’s radar when a friend tagged her in a Facebook post and she learned that women in the community had begun making masks. Hours later, Autumn Branscome, Dillon’s daughter, asked if her mom could help a friend sewing face masks for health care providers.

Dillon went straight to her sewing room and began digging through her stash of fabric. Armed with a stack of material and elastic, she started experimenting with sewing patterns she found online. She settled on one that would allow her to produce the most masks in the shortest time possible.

When her supplies ran low, Dillon headed to Hobby Lobby in Bluefield, West Virginia, for more fabric and elastic. Brandon Etter, the store’s manager, noticed her large purchase and inquired about her project. After learning about her ministry, Etter asked the cashier to ring up her purchases, and then promptly pulled out his wallet to pay for it.

When the state of West Virginia issued a shelter-in-place order that closed nonessential businesses, Dillon shared her need for materials on social media.

“Facebook has its downside, but in this case, it became a tool for a missions outreach,” Dillon says. “People stepped up to the plate and provided supplies and donations.”

Former parishioner Patti Farmer of Bassett, Virginia, saw Dillon’s post.

“Although it was hard to find, I was able to purchase material and elastic from Amazon and had it sent directly to Lisa,” says Farmer, 69. “I can’t sew, but I was thrilled to be able to help.”

Dillon says even people who don’t sew can contribute to the effort by purchasing supplies, cutting fabric and elastic, and preparing the material for sewing.

Once the masks are made and before they leave her sewing room, Dillon prays over them. She asks God to protect the recipients, to let them know they are appreciated for what they do, but most importantly, that God would reveal His love to them and that they would come to know Christ.

She, or members of the community effort, then deliver the masks to their destinations: regional hospitals, doctors’ offices, nursing homes, pharmacies, and other at-risk groups, while being careful to adhere to state and federal safety guidelines.

Recently, friend and Assemblies of God world missionary-pastor Pat L. Mahar — who is serving in Italy, the European epicenter of the coronavirus — asked Dillon to make “Italian-themed” masks. Dillon made masks using the colors of the Italian flag. Mahar says the intent is to distribute the masks and use them as a discussion starter about Jesus.

“Sewing masks is a small thing,” Dillon says. “But through it, God has opened doors and given opportunities to share faith. I’m praying we’ll see fruit from it for a long time to come.”

Mary J Yerkes

Mary J. Yerkes is a freelance writer based in metro Washington, D.C.