Woman’s Club Members Make, Donate Masks For COVID-19

Photo courtesy Beverly Biber
Liz Calvert models masks that she has made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Woman’s Club of South Pasadena is on the frontline of arming local health care workers and patients with much-needed face masks.
The masks — hand-stitched with high-quality fabric, wire and elastic bands or ties — are particularly relevant now that health officials are recommending that everyone wear some sort of face covering during trips to the store.
“We’re just a small team, but anything we can do to help,” said Anne Bagasao, who is coordinating the Woman’s Club production efforts. “What we’re able to provide doesn’t meet the needs of L.A. County but at least we’re doing something.”
Club member Ellen Daigle, a South Pasadena businesswoman, learned in March that Huntington Hospital was seeking masks for their emergency room staff. Daigle alerted the club of the need for masks, and meanwhile, her sister Bonnie Saland’s company, Philomela, donated designer fabric to help facilitate production of the masks.
“This has really grown in the last three weeks,” Daigle said. “We started off with just three people sewing and now we have an assembly line of workers.”
After learning of the need at Huntington Hospital, club members Sherry Plotkin, Pat Payne, Liz Calvert and Pat LoVerme immediately went to work to help make protective face masks, applying their sewing skills and creativity to aid in the battle against COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that emerged in China in November and which has no vaccine.
“For me, I didn’t have to stop and think about it,” Bagasao said of the charitable project.
Calvert has helped make more than 100 masks which are being donated to Huntington Hospital, South Pasadena Convalescent Center, Prospect Manor Assisted Living complex in South Pasadena and the Californian Rehab Center and Meadows Nursing Center in Pasadena. She also donated masks to Ralphs supermarket for its employees.
“I happened to be at Ralphs and asked them why they weren’t wearing masks,” Bagasao said. “The gal at Ralphs said they could wear them but they just couldn’t [find any].”
When the club first started making masks, Bagasao said it joined forces with a friend of hers, Kristina Wong, who had a similar operation going on in Koreatown. The two groups pooled resources moving forward, and there are usually two women sewing, one cutting elastic, two threading elastic and one preshrinking the fabric.
“This is really sort of a guerilla operation, but it’s working and the people out in the fields receiving the product are really, really grateful. It is better than nothing,” Bagasao said. “I always tell people that we put a lot of love into it and everyone has their own stitching style. We’re a little slower in South Pasadena, but we’re putting out really good product. It’s a really beautiful thing and I’m really proud that the Woman’s Club and the South Pasadena community can be a part of it.”
Masks are made with high-quality fabrics that are preshrunk before stitching. Those made for medical personnel make use of fabric ties rather than elastic, given the current need for doctors and nurses to wear their masks virtually all day. Others are having elastic ties, with the women acquiring elastic material where they can find it. In lieu of actual wires to form the masks around noses, Bagasao said pipe cleaners are often used. The straps are made to be removable, so the masks can safely be thrown in the wash for cleaning.
The Woman’s Club also is coordinating with another local group to acquire the packaging needed to send the masks to their recipients via mail to avoid sending people out to make direct deliveries.
“I am very proud of our many members who give so much of themselves to help others,” Club President Mavis Hansen said. “They reflect my philosophy — volunteer service from the heart. Our club works diligently for betterment of ourselves and the community. We gather together in friendship and encourage membership to anyone seeking volunteer opportunities and to enjoy like-minded friends.”
The club, which is affiliated with the Greater Federation of Woman’s Club (GFWC) and is a member of San Gabriel Valley District 20, is a nonprofit organization founded in 1899, and has a long history of charitable and public service activities. The club’s philanthropic projects, which are diverse and far-reaching, have included preparing handmade items (blankets, soft pillows and neonatal caps) and assembling hygiene kits for convalescent patients, hospitalized children and homeless veterans. The club donates clothing to women’s shelters for victims of domestic violence, tens of thousands of cookies to veterans each Memorial Day, presents to foster children and clothing to homeless men and women.
For more information about other Woman’s Club activities or to obtain a membership application, call (626) 799-9309 or email spwc1899@aol.com. The club is located at 1424 Fremont Ave. in its historic 1913 Clubhouse.