Stitching Together During The Pandemic
Lesa Haarman Makes Masks to Aid Her Community in the Midst of COVID-19
When people first began to feel the full effect of the COVID-19 Pandemic in March, as Missourians and others across the world were required to stay at home as much as possible for weeks at a time, many found themselves with lots of extra free time on their hands. People found different ways to spend this time – some people using it to bond with their family at home, others to finish up projects or start new ones, others still to pick up new hobbies or enjoy old ones again. Picking up an old hobby is exactly what FHC junior Lesa Haarman did, but her hobby didn’t just help her occupy time. It also helped countless people remain safe in the face of the daunting threat of a deadly virus the world had never before seen.
Over the past nine months, Haarman has used her creativity and sewing skills to help herself and others adapt to the new environment and precautions we’ve had to take for our health by making and then donating or selling reusable fabric masks. While Haarman has always been a creative person, sewing in particular first sparked her interest in her middle school FACS class.
“I made myself some sleep shorts and pillowcases,” Haarman said. “And then I stopped for a few years, and my mom helped me get back into it [this year.]”
One of the first items Haarman began to make when she took up sewing again in the face of this new virus was face masks, but it didn’t start out as a business. Haarman’s first mask project was one for charity.
“Back in quarantine, in March, I was making masks for the kids at my aunt’s hospital, and I was like, ‘oh, I’m doing good for the world, I love this,’” Haarman said.
Haarman loved the feeling of being able to impact positive change. So when a close friend asked her if she would sell some after seeing pictures of the masks that Haarman had posted on her social media, her business began to blossom.
“She [asked], ‘are you selling these?’ and I’m like, ‘no, but I honestly could just start selling them,’’ Haarman said. “I put a link up [in my social media] and posted more stuff on my story about masks and people started sliding up and orders started coming in.”
While she is now making a profit from her masks, Haarman wanted to be able to still give back and help others in need. So she has decided to donate a portion of the proceeds from each mask that she makes to charity.
Among the many people who have ordered a face mask from Haarman is her close friend, FHC senior Gianna Diedrick, who first encouraged Haarman to begin selling masks. Diedrick admires both Haarman’s skill and giving spirit.
“Lesa’s… an amazing person. The fact that she’s donating to charity with the money that she’s making from the masks is amazing in itself,” Diedrick said. “And her masks are really good quality… you can get them [customized], she has so many different designs and different patterns that can match different things.”
Haarman’s masks have also made an impact on her friend, FHC junior Heidi Soto. Soto, who purchased two of Haarman’s masks, suffers from an autoimmune disease that has presented some unique challenges in navigating the pandemic.
“I can’t spend a lot of time around other people, I’ve limited myself to seeing one of my friends who also is very cautious,” Soto said. “I try to only interact with my immediate family and go to the store as little as possible.”
Wearing Haarman’s masks has provided her with a way not only to feel safe and protected when she does go out in public, but also to wear a mask that fits her own personal style.
“I would recommend her masks to anyone just because they are very well made and there is a wide variety of fabrics to choose from when customizing,’” Soto said.
The importance of wearing masks to protect not only herself but others, such as Soto, is something that Haarman is very passionate about. She admits it has been part of the reason why she has continued to make masks, and that she herself is very careful to practice safe social distancing as well.
“I believe they help cut down on the transmission of air particles between people,” Haarman said. “Anytime you’re in public you should definitely be wearing one, and have it over your nose… if you’re with a close group of friends you’ve been around for a while, I feel like it would be okay to social distance and not wear them. But if you’re in a large group of people, you should definitely be wearing them, even if you are social distancing from them.”
While her busy school schedule has provided some challenges in being able to fill her orders, Haarman intends to continue sewing masks for as long as her calendar will allow.
“It definitely is a challenge,” she said. “I’ll continue it for as long as I can, and then if I get too busy I’m going to have to put it on hold. But if [my school workload] stays steady and I don’t have too much work today, then I’ll just keep working on them.”
Each mask is $10.00, and is made using the customer’s choice of several fabrics. For students interested in purchasing one of Haarman’s masks so they can stay safe and help stop the spread, you can contact her via direct message through her Instagram account, found with the handle @lesa_haarman .