Photo by Aimee Broussard

Common thread: Making masks is a community crusade

Aimee Broussard hadn’t even touched her sewing machine in more than three years when she accepted an emailed challenge in late March to start stitching cotton masks. She made her first one for a nurse at an Alexandria hospital, and when she posted her creation to social media, Broussard was asked to join Sew You Care, a nationwide volunteer movement of at-home mask makers.

Just days later, Broussard—a food blogger and cookbook author who also serves as inRegister’s food columnist—had become the captain of the local chapter of that group, coordinating the creation and distribution of thousands of masks around south Louisiana and beyond. Broussard’s own home-stitched masks—made of colorful themed fabric and packaged with cheery notes—have served to bring a bright spot to a world now often filled with distressing news. Beneficiaries of the face coverings have included everyone from delivery drivers to ICU nurses to police officers, and local organizations and companies including the Junior League of Baton Rouge, P. Tree Textiles and Community Coffee have donated supplies.

“I had forgotten how much I enjoyed watching something homemade come together,” Broussard says. “Seeing the pure happiness when our recipients get the handmade masks has renewed that sense of purpose.”

Elsewhere around our area, others are also stepping up to their sewing machines to create much-needed masks for healthcare workers and the general public. As of press time, the “Mask Angels” of St. George Catholic Church had created 4,700 masks for use in long-term care facilities, rehab centers and other facilities in need. Bridal gown designer Pedram Pasha Taheri’s Pedram Couture began producing masks topped with designer lace fabrics, while fancy pillow purveyor Rebecca Vizard of BVIZ Design launched a line of Fortuny fabric-covered masks benefitting area charities. Raising Cane’s team members have shifted from cooking to sewing for hospitals, and even salad dressing maker Hanley’s Foods is offering new “Lettuce Smile” mask/bandanas with proceeds going to Baton Rouge General Hospital. And around the city, scores of stay-at-home seamstresses are quietly cranking out masks, one yard of fabric at a time.

For Broussard, even as her mask-making efforts wrap up, she is already planning to sew for other good causes. “I’ve been recruited for several groups, including Ryan’s Case for Smiles, a nonprofit providing whimsical pillowcases for children during their stays in the hospital,” she says. “I’m happy to report the friendships—my ‘COVID connections,’ if you will—as well as the use of my sewing machine shall remain for the duration.”