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Sewing for Lives helps protect community’s masked first-responders

Park City resident Carol Librizzi sews covers that go over first-responders’ and healthcare workers’ medical-grade masks for Sewing for Lives, an organization founded by Utah nurse Megan Jansen that includes more than 6,000 steamstresses and seamsters across the nation.
Courtesy of Carol Librizzi

On TV shows and films, superheroes such as Batman, Iron Man and Spider-Gwen wear masks, but during this real-life COVID-19, crisis the heroes are first responders.

These daring medical and law-enforcement professionals, who are required to wear medical-grade masks during their jobs, are getting help from a new set of heroes in Summit County and Salt Lake City who are sewing covers to help preserve and prolong the lives of their masks.

Parkite Carol Librizzi has recruited her friends who are members of the Park City’s Common Thread and Salt Lake City’s Featherweight sewing circles, to help Megan Jansen, a registered nurse at Salt Lake Regional Hospital, with her organization, Sewing for Life.

“I’m in the process of making 80 covers and I’ve already delivered more than 70 to the people who need them,” Librizzi said. “When I’ve been dropping them off, people have been grateful.”

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Sewing for Life, which was created by Jasen on March 20, has enlisted the help of more than 6,000 seamstresses and seamsters from across the country to create 100% cotton, washable covers that first-responders and healthcare workers can wear over their medical-grade masks.

The covers prolong the life and sanitation of the medical masks, much in the same way surgeons and other operating staff cover their scrub hats with medical hats, according to Jansen.

“I want to be clear that we’re not trying to replace any type of personal protective equipment,” Jansen said. “We’re not producing masks that will prevent infections. We are complementing what these heroes already have.”

Jansen, a former Park City resident who graduated from Ameritech College of Healthcare in Draper, came up with the decision to make these covers after she learned that local law enforcement officers, who usually are the first on any dangerous scene or situation, have resorted to wearing dirty masks.

“I asked why, and was told that when thinking about first-responders, the police are usually forgotten,” she said. “I thought we could do better, and decided to start making mask covers.”

Around the same time Jansen decided to make her own mask covers, Librizzi’s husband Paul saw a news story about the serious shortage of hospital masks, and suggested she should sew something to help preserve them.

“So, I looked up on my computer any patterns, and went to Walmart to buy some supplies,” said Librizzi, a longtime quilter who won a 2019 Utah State Fair sweepstakes for a wall hanging. Coincidentally, Jansen was shopping for her own supplies at the same store, which happens to be the one at Kimball Junction.

“We met in a check-out stand after I heard her say she was looking for the same sewing supplies that I was looking for,” Jansen said. “That sparked a conversation and we found we were on the same mission.”

Since March 20, Jansen’s idea spread from Summit and Wasatch counties to across the country, thanks to a Facebook page, facebook.com/groups/Sewingforlives, and an official website, sewingforlives.com.

“We have expert seamstresses and people who are buying sewing machines for the first time working with us,” she said. “We have people teaching one another how to sew, and contacting facilities in their areas.”

Jansen’ administrative team is composed mostly of pre-med students who wanted to volunteer.

“We were all strangers when we started this, and we still haven’t all met in person,” she said. “They’ve created a database that matches the seamstresses and seamsters with facilities, and we encourage facilities to get into our database on our website and sign up to get the mask covers on the way.”

Librizzi and her sewing circles are in mass production mode with these covers.

“I’m chain sewing,” she said with a laugh. “So I’m not making one mask at a time.”

Libizzi and her husband have embarked on a three-step process.

“We first cut all the fabric and then pin the pieces together,” she said. “Once that’s done we sew.”

Jansen hopes to continue making the covers after the COVID-19 crisis is over.

“People are so happy to put their skills to use and there are a lot of places that could use our help,” Jansen said. “I want to help third-world countries with their needs.”


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