As the supply of masks began to dwindle during the coronavirus pandemic, some people started to get worried. Heidi Balbas started sewing.
A nursing student at West Coast University-Los Angeles, Balbas and her family have made several hundred masks in the past month, donating them to friends, family or anyone in need.
“When this pandemic started I thought about making masks for my mom because she is at high risk. The stores were all out and I had looked up ways to make masks,” Balbas said. “The one I decided to make has a pocket inside. Generally, you can put any kind of filter inside and replace it as needed. They are washable as well.”
First, it was me and my mom, but then as more masks were needed, I had my best friend and my sister help me out with other aspects, such as cutting fabrics to size and cutting the elastics.
Things started slowly in the beginning, with Balbas hand sewing the first 30 masks. Eventually, her dad dug out the family’s old sewing machine and production began to ramp up.
“First, it was me and my mom, but then as more masks were needed, I had my best friend and my sister help me out with other aspects, such as cutting fabrics to size and cutting the elastics,” she said.
Word soon spread about their project, and before she knew it Balbas “had connections in hospitals, nursing homes, local stores and home health agencies.”
Once she graduates in August, Balbas said she hopes to work in pediatrics. And while no one in her immediate family are nurses, she grew up seeing many of her elder family members being hospitalized and receiving care from nurses.
“Watching them take care of my family was just very heartwarming and I wanted to be able to provide that same comfort and care for those who need it,” she said. “And also, the fact that I am Filipino, it’s in my blood to want to become a nurse even though no one in my direct family is one.”
In the meantime, Balbas and her crew will continue to dedicate more than 12 hours a day to sewing masks. People have even started donating materials and money to her efforts, she said, which helps keep her team inspired and motivated.
“I’ll keep making them for as long as they are needed,” she said.