15:03 PM

Doing good: WCTC staffer sews 200+ masks, caps for healthcare and school employees

christa and pete

Like the vast majority of Waukesha County Technical College employees, Christa Thao has been spending her days working from home for the past month. As the administrative assistant for the College and Career Readiness department, she’s been handling day-to-day tasks virtually to ensure the department continues to run efficiently. Additionally, she and her husband are caring for their two toddlers – along with their two school-age children, who are also at home and participating in online learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Each night, however, Thao sits down at her sewing machine for several hours to make fabric face masks or caps for frontline healthcare and school workers.

“I am fortunate enough to be able to work from home, but there are those who cannot work from home because their job is to take care of us. I thought if a mask could help a little bit more, why not?” Thao said, noting she saw a pattern on social media and thought she’d give it a try.

So far, Thao has made and donated 189 masks and 23 caps. Some have gone to those working in educational settings – including the security and facilities staffs at WCTC, who have remained on campus, and school bus drivers in the Pewaukee School District (where her two older children are enrolled), who are passing out grab-and-go lunches to students in need. The bulk, she said, have been given to healthcare professionals, including those at the Central Racine County Health Department, a unit at St. Luke’s Medical Center, Medical College of Wisconsin/Froedtert Hospital and Infectious Disease Specialists. She is also currently making 20 caps to donate to to Sinai Medical Center.

Because she has a side business as a seamstress and sews modernized, traditional Hmong clothing, Thao had extra supplies on hand, including cotton fabric, elastic and thread. She used these items to create the masks/caps and received monetary donations to purchase more materials. She is also selling masks/caps to anyone who is not a frontline worker and is using the proceeds for materials to make additional protective items to donate to essential workers.

Thao said she can sew a basic mask in about five to 10 minutes, but those that require a pocket for a filter and a metal piece for a nose bridge take 15 to 20 minutes. Caps also take about 15 minutes to sew.

“Thankfully, my husband and my daughter are helping me with cutting and sewing some of the easier parts of the process,” she said.

While her days and nights, have been busy during this new normal, Thao said she is happy to put her skills to good use and give back.

“I wanted to do something that could help out our community during this time.”