As students return to Indiana University Kokomo today for fall semester, some may forget or lose the required face mask. That’s why Aunt Crystal stepped up to make extras – at no charge – for students who need them.
A family member to John Sarber, director of physical facilities, and Sarah Sarber, chief of staff, Aunt Crystal hand-made and donated about 300 masks for the campus community.
“Students may not have access to purchase additional masks, so we started looking at how we could provide extra,” Sarah said, adding that those who did not receive masks in the mail may pick them up at the Welcome Center or in the Student Life tent in the quad this week.
Recalling that their aunt was making and donating masks in her Illinois hometown, she called and asked if they could hire her to make more for IU Kokomo.
“We were willing to pay her for them, but she isn’t accepting any money,” Sarah said. “I don’t think she’s charged anyone for a single mask she’s made.”
John noted that Aunt Crystal, in her 70s, stays close to home because of the pandemic. Mask making allows her to use her skills — which include quilting, knitting and crocheting — to help people. She’s worked from her fabric stash and had family members send her additional material and elastic to keep her costs down.
She’s also well-known in the IU Kokomo community for her hand-made gifts before this year — especially baby blankets.
The masks are available at the Welcome Center, located in Alumni Hall, for anyone who needs one.
For those who want to make a fashion statement, sophomore Molly Lewis added masks to her product line in her small business, Grace Upon Grace Jewelry & Designs.
“It started off with me making jewelry and keychains, and then my grandmother suggested she could teach me to sew,” said Lewis, a business major from Kokomo. “Right now, my business is all masks.”
She’s enjoyed shopping for trendy fabric designs and working on the pattern to create masks that are both comfortable, safe, and stylish.
“I want people to feel good about having to wear them, and make it something they enjoy wearing,” Lewis said, adding that she’s tested the comfort by wearing her own creations as she works her serving job.
She saw people charging $12 or more for handmade masks online, and decided to set her prices lower, to make them accessible. With scholarships covering her tuition, she’s not relying on sales to pay for school, but she said she’s probably made enough to buy a textbook or two.
“My grandmother and I decided that $6 was reasonable,” she said, adding that they view it as a service. “We didn’t want to give them away, but this way we can cover costs and shipping.”
“This has been so much fun. I’ve been surprised by the response.”