Pierre resident Sandra Kangas is retired from a career with Child and Adult Nutrition Services. Now, she serves on her church board and at the Pierre Senior Center. She weaves rugs, and her work can be seen at various craft shows and some charity fundraisers. She tends to, and is tended by, her cats.

She also sews face masks, which are used to slow the spread of COVID-19.

“I don’t know how many she has made now, but last I knew she had passed 1,200,” her brother, Sheldon Kangas, said. “Most of us in the family have benefited from her labors, and many health care and education personnel also. She is pretty humble about these things.”

“I started when they weren’t able to keep up with the demand,” Sandra said in referring to April and May.

“It was part of a Million Mask Challenge for health care workers and other people. I like to sew. I give them away for family, friends and others, or if someone wants to give a donation to a group. It’s doing something other than sitting on my couch,” she added.

Showing her humor, Kangas said her masks are made of cloth rather than a form of plastic: “There are warnings that you shouldn’t put plastic over your face. Actually, officials recommend cotton as the best cloth, because it absorbs droplets better. I use materials here as my home, and I have made trips to regular stores and thrift stores. The materials for one mask are a dollar; probably far less.”

Her humor rose again, “As I was doing this, a tune from the musical Fiddler on the Roof came to mind, with a little change. “Mask-maker, mask-maker, make me a mask…”

“I pretty much use elastic or elastic cord for the straps. I make the masks for the straps to be used behind the head, and give instructions on how to convert them to be used behind your ears,” Kangas said.

Before Christmas, she went with extra bright designs and colors. Many of these masks went to relatives and to the schools they attend or places at which they work. Kangas gladly shows off the fun thank-you selfies photos she has gotten from students in a Nebraska school. She is open to, but hasn’t yet seen very many requests, from local school kids. She hopes that she just hasn’t missed those requests. For those people who sing at her church, she has given music-themed masks. Currently, she is making some with Valentine’s designs.

“I try to find loud and fun colors — stars, basketballs, tiger print or whatever for the schools. I try to do a variety,” Kangas said. “Things have slowed down a bit, but I certainly could make more if there is a need. I usually have a whole bunch of materials out, and it takes less than two hours to make a mask.”

“I am sure there are lots of generous people making and giving away masks. I don’t know who or how many people, probably because we are all sort of locked up,” Kangas said, referring to social distancing. “It is good for me to do this.”

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