Sewing the Seeds of Service

Mendoza family stitches face masks for medical professionals and people at-risk, and enlist the help of her children’s Cub Scout Pack and Troop

By Jerry L. Carter

The whir of a sewing machine chugging along can be heard, most days, emanating from Amber and Manuel Mendoza's home in Monticello, as Cody, 9, and his little sister, Megan, 8, pick and iron fabrics, and Anna, 11, helps her mom sew cloth face coverings to give away to those who need them the most, in an effort to help fight COVID-19.

"It makes me feel good helping people get through this tough Coronavirus," Megan said.

Meet the Crew

The children, all Scouts in the Monticello area are eager to help every day. Amber says, they see the good they are doing and ask to help and be of service.

Amber belongs to several sewing and embroidery groups and got the idea to make masks, after learning about the need for re-usable, washable masks, and seeing the groups' patterns shared over social media.

"I felt God pushing me to do these," Amber said. "Then when hospitals here in Minnesota began asking for masks, I knew I had to do this."

Officials with the Center for Disease Control state, wearing home-made face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain are beneficial to slowing the transmission of COVID-19, and they are better alternatives to surgical masks and N-95 respirators for the general population. The other masks should be reserved for frontline medical healthcare workers and first-responders.

Amber Mendoza should be on the front lines, fighting COVID-19 at a medical facility, but a horse-riding accident left her with a broken arm last July. Mendoza had graduated from practical nursing school in May of 2019, then shortly after the saddle on her horse slipped to the side, and she fell to the ground, breaking her humerus into two pieces, about halfway between her shoulder and elbow. Months of physical therapy followed.

"I was just starting to apply for jobs just before the world shutdown," Mendoza said. "Now my applications are all on hold."

Even though she is an at-risk person, with life-long asthma, she wishes she could be in the trenches and she understands the need for reusable face coverings. In this time of uncertainty, it gave her a purpose and a way to help.

"This is why I felt so strongly, and it pushed me to make the masks," she said. "I cannot be on the front line as an LPN, but I know how to sew. I'm not a professional, but this is a way of providing a service to whoever needs it."

The Mask Making Process

Amber Mendoza has all the equipment, a serger, sewing machine, and even an embroidery machine, plus all kinds of materials and supplies, so it was easy for her to enlist the help of her three young children, and convert her quaint kitchen and dining room into full-swing face mask production assembly line, cranking out hundreds of masks in a few weeks for medical professionals and people at-risk in the Monticello, Big Lake and St. Cloud area.

"I've lost count of how many I've given away," Amber said. "I just get orders, mostly by word of mouth, and I make them and deliver them."

Amber abides by social distancing guidelines and arranges no contact drop offs and pickups.

Physical Therapist Assistant Leslie Coleman was one of the first to get some of Amber's masks. Coleman assists Amber with her physical therapy at Great River Spine & Sport, in Monticello.

"These are so much more comfortable and actually cute," Coleman said, comparing Amber's masks to the disposable ones her employer is supplying. "I have ordered five masks now from her and love them. She and the girls even make a special pocket to hold a coffee filter for extra protection, which is a very nice addition."

Amber went through her personal supplies quickly, and has been receiving donations from friends and family, but now she's also getting support from her kids' Pack and Troop—Monticello Cub Scout Pack 272, where Megan, a Tiger Scout, and Cody, a Bear, are enrolled; and Buffalo Troop 358, where her daughter, Anna just joined.

"We are currently organizing a push for mask making, using Amber's experience and help to show Scouts and their families that they can still serve their community even at home," said Danielle Sonsteby, the Activities Chair for the Pack. "If our families are unable to make masks due to time or equipment, then we as a Pack, are trying to have them donate cloth or other supplies to Amber, so she can make them."

"Troop 5358 was looking for a service opportunity during this time where we are staying isolated from each other," said Scoutmaster David McNamara. "Amber's work with her daughter exemplifies how we can continue to serve our communities, and others in the Troop are looking for ways they can help too."

When asked how many masks Amber and her children want to make, she said, "Until they aren't needed anymore." 

Want to Donate to Amber?

  • New materials only.
  • Must be 100 percent cotton
  • Serger or overclock thread
  • Monetary donations accepted
  • Contact Amber
    Phone: 763-587-1784
    Email: [email protected]

Face Mask Resources

Center for Disease Control – DIY cloth face coverings

Minnesota Department of Health—Interim Guidance on Alternate Facemasks

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Sewing the Seeds of Service

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