Community members make, donate masks to essential workers in Carlton County

Families and children are sewing cloth masks to give to emergency personnel, postal workers and more.

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Robb Jezierski, Shelly Pensak, Steven Tucker, Tom Gauthier and Lucas Goodin pose for a photo wearing masks made by Anne, Gene, Angela and James Schilling of Esko. Angela works in the Emergency Room at Community Memorial Hospital in Cloquet and her family made and donated the masks to her coworkers. Contributed by Angela Schilling

Making face masks is a family affair for Esko residents Gene and Anne Schilling.

Two of their adult children live at home with the retired couple. All are considered high risk for COVID-19. Their daughter, Angela, is a registered nurse in the emergency room at Community Memorial Hospital in Cloquet, and their son, James, works for the U.S. Postal Service in Cloquet.

The family started making masks last week after Angela bought supplies. They have completed 120, which Angela took to the hospital to share with her coworkers.

Hospital staff put the cloth masks over their N95 masks and change the cloth masks between patients.

“We know how they burn through the PPE’s (personal protection equipment),” Anne said.


She said her family believes Gov. Tim Walz has done a wonderful job responding to the pandemic, and making masks is the family's way to help out.

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When the Schillings ran out of supplies, a doctor at the hospital donated fabric, so they could keep making more.

Anne said she enjoys crafting and uses two-thirds of the basement as her craft room. The family set up three sewing machines in the space and have an assembly line for face masks.

Anne explained they use three layers to build their masks per the video Angela had found. Two pieces of cotton material on each side and a flannel piece in the middle, like a sandwich. She also twists a pipe cleaner and hot glues it to form around the nose to hold it in place.

“We have enough material to make 200 more,” Anne said.

Anne, 64, and Gene, 67, wear masks when they go shopping. The couple went to Sam’s Club during senior hour and noticed all of the senior citizens wore masks, but did not see any employees doing the same. Anne said she thinks that the mask is a visual reminder for those around them to stay a safe distance away.

Amaija Halli, 11, has made 150 masks and raised $525 in donations.


Once schools closed, the Cloquet Middle School fifth-grader asked her parents for craft supplies to help fill time during the shelter in place mandate. Her goal is to donate masks to people who need them free of charge. Her parents purchased supplies for her, so she plans to donate the money she has raised to the B&B Market food train.

Halli said she was surprised when her parents brought home a sewing machine. Her 13-year-old brother, Quinn, helped teach her how to use it. She looked up patterns for face masks online and got to work. She uses parachute cord instead of elastic.

“It’s pretty easy and doesn't take long once you get the hang of it,” Halli said.

She donated a box of face masks to Cloquet High School. The masks she's working on now will go to a nursing home in Hibbing, and the batch after that will go to New Perspective Senior Living in Cloquet where her grandma lives.

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