Making masks was ‘sew’ rewarding

Senior Hailey Firlotte took up sewing this past summer and made a difference by making masks for the United Way of Central Georgia

Hailey+Firlotte+spent+her+summer+sewing+masks

Gazebo Photo by Brandon Firlotte

Hailey Firlotte spent her summer sewing masks

One day during the quarantine in late spring, I walked downstairs to tell my mother I wanted to learn how to sew.

I usually never make requests like this, so she was taken aback by this random decision of mine. I told her I wanted to learn how to make a shirt. She explained I needed to start with something more simple. The news was on TV, like always, and a segment about the coronavirus was airing. My mom and I both collectively decided that we should learn how to make masks.

We already had a sewing machine. Years ago, when we lived in Canada, my mom bought a sewing machine to help my dance/theatre company make the costumes for the productions.

Before we went out and got all the material to get started, we needed to figure out what to do with all the masks we were going to make.

There are only so many you need at your house.

We reached out to the United Way of Central Georgia. It turns out they had a shortage of masks and were looking for donations.It was the perfect opportunity because I have had experience with the United Way in the past, so I knew my masks would go to a good cause.

Once we knew where my masks were going, we got started making them. Day after day, we spent hours working hard on our masks. My favorite part was picking out the pretty patterns. At first, learning how to sew scared me. I was afraid of messing up or getting my hands caught in the machine. But after the first few weeks, I was slowly becoming a “pro.”

It was the perfect opportunity because I have had experience with the United Way in the past, so I knew my masks would go to a good cause.”

— Hailey Firlotte

I also made some small masks because I was never able to find any that fit me and that was really helpful. It made me happy knowing I was able to make something for everyone.

When I felt like I was at a good stopping point, my mother and I decided to hand in what we made, which turned out to be 135 masks.

The United Way of Central Georgia was so moved by my story that they insisted on coming to my home and interviewing me. I was told that they wanted to speak with me because not many teenagers would give up a good part of their summer to help their community.

When I heard that I was taken aback in a way. I did not really think I was helping out my community in a large way. My thought process was that I knew the importance of masks during this time and I knew that everyone deserves them so why not make them for those who need them.

The interview process with the United Way was a lot of fun. We were laughing, talking, sharing stories, and I was able to share my story about my masks which I really care about.

They asked me how does it feel to help out your community, and I had a hard time elaborating on my answer because to me it was just a good feeling. I know how lucky I am, I was able to go out and buy material, use a sewing machine, and learn to sew. That in itself is a privilege in my opinion, so being able to use that to help others is such a positive feeling because if I were to ever make an impact on my community I want to make a positive one.

After their story aired, I had 13 WMAZ, and WGXA reach out to me wanting to do interviews with me. This was very exciting but also nerve-wracking.

Watch Hailey’s interview with WMAZ-TV

Watch Hailey’s interview with WGXA-TV

Why me? Being able to see myself on TV was a very weird experience, I couldn’t believe that something as simple as my masks were shared throughout my whole community.

Since the school year has started, and things have become more hectic. My mask-making project has slowed down. I still plan to make them when I have the time and plan on donating them right before I go off to college. This has been an experience I will remember for the rest of my life.