Locals band together to assemble masks for Dowagiac businesses

DOWAGIAC — Area residents are lending a hand — and their sewing machines — to help businesses fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

A group of sewers from Lawrence, Dowagiac and Edwardsburg are helping to supply masks to Dowagiac businesses and their employees. June Nemeth, the owner of Yarn on Front, 122 S. Front St., Dowagiac, and a trustee on the Greater Dowagiac Chamber of Commerce board is serving as a middle man in the operation by collecting the masks at her store and distributing them to the businesses requesting them.

“I have a number of friends who have been diligently making face masks for people all over the country actually and a lot locally,” Nemeth said. “They have probably made thousands, and another chamber member had asked about getting face masks. I had said, ‘Well I have a group of friends who have been making them.’”

Nemeth said as the state gets closer to being able to reopen, she asked if her volunteer sewers would be able to be on call to provide masks if businesses needed them.

“They have all stepped up,” Nemeth said. “They are taking donations if people are inclined. They have been diligently sewing their fingers off.”

Nemeth, who knows the women through her store, has developed friendships with the group.

“The ladies that make these are wonderful,” Nemeth said. “They go above and beyond. Between the three of them, I bet they have made thousands of face masks.”

As the middleman, Nemeth’s job is to connect the masks with business owners.

“When the requests come into me, I post in the group. Whoever has the means, they will grab the order,” Nemeth explained. “They leave their contact for the person or business, or they will leave the masks with me, and then I will let the business come and get them from me.”

With the initiative just beginning, Nemeth said she has already received requests from four different business owners. So far, she has distributed 12 masks to local businesses.

When Nemeth is not working on the face mask front, she is continuing to provide her customers with yarn and the help they need on their quarantine projects.

“Every day, I am pretty busy with email, Messenger, text questions and Face Time,” she said. “Technology is a great thing.”

Last week, Nemeth posted a photo on Facebook of her with a laptop, two iPads and her cell phone out. Each device was being used to hold conversations with customers.

During this time, Nemeth described knitting and crocheting as therapy.

“People need therapy more than ever,” she said. “We’ve been busy enough that we have been officially able to offer curbside. We have people every day who have been picking some stuff up. I am happy to be able to do what I can now.”

Before non-essential retailers were able to offer curbside delivery, Yarn on Front was offering virtual shopping. Nemeth was also delivering supplies to people’s front doors in compliance with social distancing.

The store has also continued offering yarning night virtually over Zoom Communications with more than 16 attendees on one occasion.

“We’ve continued to provide support where when we can,” Nemeth said.