In April, as the COVID-19 pandemic was emerging across Canada, staff at the Common Table, an urban farm project run by Flemingdon Park Ministry in Toronto, worried that without personal protective equipment, they could catch and spread the virus. A member of the ministry’s board, Stu Hutcheson, came up with a solution.
“I’m sure Judy can come up with masks for you,” he said.
Judy Hutcheson, his wife and a lifelong sewer, quickly got to work and made about 15 masks to protect the staff. “I was very happy to do it,” she says. “I don’t want them spreading the virus, either.”
Her masks helped ensure the virus didn’t spread at Flemingdon Park, and word about the masks quickly got around. She soon received requests to make dozens and then hundreds of them.
Just a few days after making the first batch for Flemingdon Park Ministry, All Saints Church- Community Centre asked Judy for some masks to support staff at its drop-in program. A friend also got some masks for St. Michael and All Angels church in Toronto. A whole Toronto police division asked for 175 masks for its frontline officers.
Then, Judy noticed a need for protective equipment in her own community. “Looking out my living room window, I saw lots of people passing without protection.”
She started making masks and hanging them from a tree on her front lawn with a sign saying “Keep Port Credit healthy. Please take one.”
The months wore on. Social distancing reduced the spread of COVID-19. Churches started to think about what worship services would look like when they eventually reopened. The Rev. Canon Jennifer Reid, incumbent of St. Peter, Erindale, knew that masks would be key to reopening safely, so she asked Judy for some help.
“It would be great if we had liturgical masks to match my stole,” Canon Reid suggested.
So, Judy got to work on the liturgical masks at her cottage, where she has a room with two sewing machines. “I’m very happy to be in there helping others stay safe and healthy,” she says.
The masks are similar to the ones she was making before, with one important difference: champagne embellished sparkly crosses. “I’m a bit of a glitzy girl,” she laughs.
Canon Reid is grateful that Judy made liturgically coordinated masks to match her stole and is happy to do her part in reducing the spread of COVID-19. “I have no problem with it at all. It’s appropriate and it’s the right thing to do,” she says. “Judy is a woman who loves to sew and be creative. She has a huge heart for helping people.”
The people Judy is helping with her homemade masks are now all over the world. She has advertised the masks on Facebook and is selling them, with the proceeds going to the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF). She has made masks for people in Washington, DC, and Newfoundland and Labrador. She has even been asked to make red masks for an entire church choir, but with one important change.
“Instead of a cross, it will have a treble clef,” she says.
Having made more than 500 masks, her project has been very popular, but she says she didn’t do it for the spotlight. “I wanted to do it to make sure everyone was safe and healthy,” she says. “I really thought this was an important project.”
And with requests for more masks coming in, she is staying very busy. “I’m heading back to the cottage – got to get back to the sewing machine.”