A service project by four Creighton University nursing students and their faculty advisor to seek donations of cloth face coverings for fellow students received an overwhelming response from classmates, their families and friends.
The students in the accelerated Nursing Program in Phoenix hoped to get 120 masks donated as part of a plan to make sure all current nursing students had a cloth face covering. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the use of cloth face coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19. The students ended up getting more than 350. In addition, they received $500 in cash donations, half of which will go toward charity.
The project gained so much support that masks came in from all parts of the country as word spread. Friends told friends and family called on other family. Now, students from incoming cohorts of the nursing program will receive masks.
“The fact we were able to put this together in less than a month showed me that Creighton is picking the right people for this program and the nursing field,” said Courtney Taylor, one of the nursing students involved in the project. “This cohort has amazing passion and wants to give back to our field.”
The project also served as a great outlet for the students on the project team – all of whom serve on the Student Senate and are set to graduate in August. It allowed them to get involved in something beyond taking online courses and studying. The project started about the same time the students were informed they wouldn’t be allowed to do clinicals and have in-person classes because of COVID-19 fears.
“Each of us doing a little bit played a significant role,” said nursing student Erika Jorgensen, who made 20 masks herself. “Besides, you need a break from studying all the time.”
Although the group researched masks requirements from the CDC and other agencies, they decided not to impose stringent technical requirements for the masks collected. Instead, they wanted masks that would limit the spread of germs by the person wearing it.
“We decided the masks were not necessarily for keeping other germs from you but more of a way to reduce your germs,” said Jorgenson.
As the mask donations started coming in, the group gave themselves a Memorial Day deadline to get as many as possible. The masks arrived in time for the students, who are now back in class, to each receive one, with more available for incoming students. The designs, colors and sizes all vary depending on who made the mask.
The idea for a mask drive came from Nursing Program Administrative Assistant Michelle Moreno, who shared it with faculty member Patty Timmons, faculty advisor to the Student Senate. From there, Timmons proposed the project to the Student Senate members.
“I basically said, ‘Do you think we can make this work?’” said Timmons, who knew a couple of the students had mothers who were already sewing masks.
In the end, Timmons was pleased with the project’s success and how the students embraced the project.
“I am humbled and happy with how generous and thoughtful our students are,” she said. “Even in these trying and unknown times, they remained extremely positive.”
Because the mothers of students Caitlyn Doulgeropoulos and Jill Fattibene had already been making masks, it gave the group some firsthand knowledge of what it took to make masks. They were able to offer patterns and advice for other mask-makers to follow if needed.
“My mom loved being able to help,” said Doulgeropoulos. “She was feeling hopeless with COVID-19. Doing something like this really made her feel better.”
Each nursing student on the project team played different roles. Jill Fattibene did not know how to sew but enlisted her mother’s sewing abilities. Timmons, the faculty advisor, even learned how to sew well enough to make a few masks.
“Everybody’s process to contribute was slightly different,” said Doulgeropoulos. “I collected material because I was living next to a fabric store in San Diego. I did all the cutting, while mom sewed.”
The students were surprised at the number of donors who sent cash. They originally planned to use cash donations to reimburse people who bought fabric for the masks. But after those individuals refused to accept any cash reimbursement, the group decided to send out modest gift cards and give the rest to charity.
Now, as the students return to classes, all fellow students as well as those in other cohorts will be able to get their own masks.
“Even though we were not in the hospital, a lot of us, as nursing students, still wanted to help,” said Doulgeropoulos. “It was driving us nuts that we wanted to help and didn’t have anything to do. So the idea to make and donate masks was a really, really good one.