By Jo Mathis/AAPS District News Editor
When Katie Hopgood decided to start sewing masks for Mitchell Elementary students and staff in March of 2020, she had no way of knowing where it would lead. Or that she’d still be at it nearly two years—and nearly 3,000 masks—later.
It’s been a lot of hours at the sewing machine, but this Mitchell mom has no regrets.
“When the kids are excited for a split second about making that mask choice, it’s great,” she says. “Because it’s a hard thing to go to school in the new way sometimes. So when they get excited for a new print or their favorite character or whatever, that’s great. It’s a little tiny spark of joy for them.”
Mitchell school social worker Catherine Hogans says Hopgood deserves a lot of credit for creating masks in a wide variety of patterns and colors for everyone who wants one—at no charge.
She noted that Hopgood recently made dozens of ‘mitten minders’, sewing elastic with mitten clips so students can keep track of their mittens.
“Kids and staff all over Mitchell wear the masks daily,” says Hogans. “She continues to replenish our stash, allowing kids and staff to pick out new ones for themselves.”
The idea came to Hopgood soon after the Pandemic began. She and fellow Mitchell mom Meghan Nolan were talking about getting masks for their own kids and realized that in order to get them excited about wearing masks, they should be of a bright, fun material.
“And at that point, you couldn’t really find the cute prints and things like that,” Hopgood recalls. “We knew If we were going to normalize these for our kids, we should make them more excited about wearing them. They should be things that they enjoy. We know that if we want them to wear them, choice is important. It’s just like kids picking out books, right? It has to be something that they like if you’re going to get them to engage.”
One mask led to another and another. While Nolan found the material and supplies, Hopgood—who’s been sewing for years—just kept at it.
“In the beginning, we wanted to make sure that every kid had at least two and then every staff member had at least three,” says Hopgood, who began working part-time in the Mitchell office amid the recent staff shortage.
Nearly 3,000 masks later, Hopgood is still replenishing the plastic tub in the office so staff and students can just come in and get whatever they like.
And these are high-quality masks, made of three layers of 100 percent cotton, with adjustable straps and a wire insert.
How long does it take her to make each one?
“Um,” says Hopgood with a smile. “It’s best not to think about it.”