b'final mattersReal MenSew MasksFinding a way to be a helperBY GARY JONESI boughtlearningproject.WeMaplewood/SouthOrangecommunityis had never sewn in my life. But five years ago, when I bought a sewing machinealso extraordinary; this sewing group is now for my daughter, it was meant to be amore than 500 people strong and has deliv-father-daughterered 10,000 masks. If you had asked me at were going to make a costume together.the start Do you know how to sew? I would Wesupplies, learned how thehave said no. I still dont think of myself as a machineworkedandthenputitallsewer. away. She had moved on to the next thing.I am doing this to help the people who are FastforwardtolateMarch2020whennowunwittingsoldiersinabattletosave IsawpeopleIknowpostingonFacebooklives. I am grateful for my family, my com-about sewing masks to donate to local hospi- make masks. I had everything I needed: cloth, thread,munity, SOMa Sewing Volunteersthe Face-tals. A group had started, SOMa Sewing Volunteers,elastic and a sewing machine, so it was time to see ifbook sewing groupand the opportunity to be a and people were sharing advice and materials, andI could, in fact, sew. By 9 p.m. I had completed fivehelper. I am at 60 masks and counting. dividing up the work to get the most done. I wantedmasks. Making many mistakes and figuring out howGary Jones, an Edward Jones Financial Advisor, has to help.everything worked meant I was on pace for complet- lived in Maplewood with his wife, Martha, two chil-As a young child I loved Mr. Rogers, and evening a mask every 90-plus minutes, far off the 10- todren and Molly the dog since 2003. He also serves on after I had outgrown the show I would sometimes15-minutepaceeveryonewasdiscussingonFace- the board of the Maplewood Chamber of Commerce put it on because he made me feel safe. I rememberbook. I was thrilled and ready to make more. I postedand the regional Alzheimers Association. his look for the helpers message.my success to Facebook that night and continued to On 9/11 we lived on the Jersey City waterfrontmake masks every evening that week. Tina Kelley, the overlooking a staging area for supplies going to theorganizer of the SOMa Sewing Volunteers, noticed site of that horrible catastrophe. Helpers were every- my posts and invited me to join the group.where, working around the clock to manage the sup- I hope that sharing my effort might inspire some-plies being donated. It was an extraordinary eventone to step outside their comfort zone as I have done. that brought many of us closer together wanting toMy masks are clearly not high fashion. But I like to do whatever we could to help.think that someone wearing one of them is smiling The virus has brought back those feelings of want- behind my low fashion creation and appreciating the ing to help. By the next Saturday evening, I had got- effort, made by someone who cant sew very well, to ten all the sewing gear out and had set up a work- protect them. space. By Sunday, I was at the machineready toThisvirusisanotherextraordinaryevent.The 30/ matters magazine / spring 2020'