Temple resident Sheryll Lamkin has helped sew thousands of masks for organizations across Bell County.
“I’ve been doing it since February,” she said. “It’s been just sewing, eating and sleeping — that’s pretty much all there’s been.”
But one of her recent mask giveaways holds a special place in her heart. She made more than 600 masks for students, teachers and staff at Lakewood Elementary, where her three grandchildren are enrolled.
“This was a way for me to feel better about what I was doing, and use my time and energy to do something positive for others,” Lamkin said. “I figured even if they can afford to buy a mask, there’s just something cool about getting something that someone cared enough to make for you.”
Earlier this month, Lamkin brought the handmade masks to Lakewood Elementary, 11200 W. Adams Ave.
“We thought it would be best so the kids could pick their own. We tried to have the kids have them here and over there,” she said, pointing at the two parallel tables where she had neatly laid out the masks in the cafeteria.
Class by class, students went through the line and picked up a new mask.
Lakewood staff, though, had something else waiting for them: Masks embroidered with their names and messages of encouragement.
“It felt so personal. It was such a beautiful thing because it was unexpected,” kindergarten teacher Stormy LeBlanc said, describing the moment as a silver lining in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s something that is required at this point for our safety and everybody’s health. We were very thankful for that.”
Lakewood Principal Becky Musil sent Lamkin a list of all of the names of every staff member.
“Everybody was included, which was fantastic,” Musil said. “They were so excited.”
Musil, of course, got a mask. She lifted her chin as high as she could to show it off.
“My name is on here and it says, ‘Be kind, be brave, stay strong,’” she said, showing off the embroidered words.
Lamkin started including those little messages after making masks for a niece who works as an emergency room surgeon in Denver. Lamkin’s niece told her that her co-workers were exhausted and had become disheartened as the coronavirus took over their lives.
While the words are neatly sewn into the masks with just a thread of cotton fibers, they are there to give people that little extra oomph to push forward.
Lamkin used herself as an example. Her mask on a recent Friday said “Courage.”
“Maybe I don’t have to be courageous all the time, but when I put it on I think courage. Yeah, I have courage today to go forth to do what I need to do,” she said.
Musil was in awe of Lamkin’s work.
“She did this act of love for all our kids. Can you imagine how much time it took?” Musil said. “And she’s using it as a learning opportunity for her grandkids.”
Alexis, Annabelle and Allie White helped their grandmother with the undertaking.
Allie, 5, helped pick fabric. Annabelle, 7, helped sew. And Alexis, 9, helped put pipe cleaners into the masks to act as a nose piece.
“It makes me feel very good for helping her make the masks. I went to Hobby Lobby to help pick out fabric. We picked out happy colors like pink and yellow,” Alexis said. “I’m just so grateful that my grandma made all these masks for everybody in my school.”