Living through coronavirus: She usually makes pillows, quilts and bears. Now she’s making hundreds of masks

Bethany Tompkins, 40, of Middletown, has made and donated about 500 protective masks in the last month to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. SUBMITTED PHOTO
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Bethany Tompkins, 40, of Middletown, has made and donated about 500 protective masks in the last month to help reduce the spread of the coronavirus. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Thirty years ago, when Bethany Tompkins was taught to sew, she had no idea this is how she’d use those talents.

But here she is putting those skills to work making masks to protect people from the coronavirus. About a month ago, when Gov. Mike DeWine announced a stay-at-home order, Tompkins started making masks. So far, she has made and given out about 500 to health care workers, grocery store employees, day care workers and those stationed at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

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“I wanted to help in some way,” Tompkins, 40, said when asked her reason. “Like everybody else I was stuck at home.”

The Middletown woman owns a small business called Sew Purpose and earns “a little money on the side” by altering dresses and making stuffed animals, pillows, quilts and memory bears out of clothes of loved ones who have died. The bears, she said, provide “a little bit of healing and hope” for those who are grieving.

“It helps them hold onto memories,” she said.

Matt and Bethany Tompkins have three sons, and while he works in the IT department for a prescription company, she home schools Elias, 10, Benji, 13, and Eban, 15. When the boys are older, she hopes to open a sewing studio and teach classes in downtown Middletown.

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But right now she’s concentrating on protective masks.

Most of the masks have gone to her friends who work in nursing homes and health care facilities. She believes those workers would be the last to get a masks because of the shortage. She also has made masks for those at Hope House, Middletown’s homeless shelter.

“You’re a super hero if you know how to sew,” said Tompkins, who added sewing is “a lost art.”

In return for their masks, some people have made financial donations or given her material and supplies as payment. She says it takes five to 20 minutes to make one mask, depending on its design.

Because of the high demand for masks, there’s a shortage of elastic, she said. She has used the elastic out of fitted sheets and underwear.

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“You have to think outside the box,” she said with a laugh.

Then she added: “God always provides.”

This isn’t the first time Tompkins has used her sewing to assist those in need. She volunteers as seamstress for Ladies Night Out, an annual event that provides a night of pampering for women in the community. She’s in charge of altering the dresses.

“She has taken her hobby into the mission field,” said Jeri Lewis, Ladies Night Out founder.

Lewis has seen Tompkins at work, but she’s amazed by the number of masks she has produced.

“That’s insane to me,” she said. “I’ve heard about other people who have made masks, but most of them have a team of people.”


TELLING YOUR STORIES

We’re looking to profile people throughout our coverage area about how the coronavirus is impacting your daily life. If you’re interested in sharing your story about how you’re affected or adapting to the situation, call Journal-News reporter Rick McCrabb at 513-483-5216 or email rick.mccrabb@coxinc.com.

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