Arcadia Community Members Create Masks for Those in Need

By Caitlin T. Burns | April 28, 2020

Members of the Arcadia community continue to step up in the fight against COVID-19. With Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and masks as some of the biggest needs, Arcadia students, faculty, staff, and alumni have pulled out their sewing machines and needles to make over 1,000 masks.

After the spring break Preview, GFS, and Alternative Spring Break trips were canceled, the Community and Civic Engagement Center donated 40 masks to Doylestown Hospital in Doylestown, Pa. These masks were purchased for work in Guatemala.


Kleckner (left) and Misher (right) wear handmade masks.

“Everybody needs some help,” said Arcadia Theater Costume Shop Manager Alisa Kleckner ’15, who has been sending mask-making packages to students. “I think the biggest thing is that the need is beyond hospitals—you can check with hospitals, but students got disappointed because their area hospitals couldn’t accept their stuff. But others who will gladly take them.”

Working in collaboration with Associate Professor of Visual and Performing Arts Karen Misher ’88, the pair have been making masks with fun or colorful patterns in order to make people feel more comfortable seeing others wear them or wearing a mask themselves.

“I’ve really been thinking about everyone wearing these masks,” said Misher, who is a metals and jewelry artist. “This is a body adornment that has been thrust upon society across the spectrum—something that we haven’t really seen before. It’s also helping me get some of the power back in a situation where I can feel powerless.”

Kleckner and Misher have been donating masks to essential personnel across fields—at-home nurses, care facility staff, grocery store employees, prison care providers, therapists, and more. Misher has also started making masks for A Step Up Academy students, where she is founder and board chair. A Step Up Academy is designed to support children with Autism Spectrum Disorder so they may achieve academic and social success.

Sleigh wears a handmade mask.

Additionally, Kleckner and Misher have encouraged students to give back where they see a need, which is why History major Violet Sleigh ’21 reconnected with Carol’s Place, a shelter for women and children who are victims of abuse.

As a student in Adjunct Professor of Education Linda Ruth Paskell’s “Artist in the Community” course, Sleigh had worked with individuals living at the shelter to create artwork in the Fall 2019 semester. Having visited the shelter several times during the semester, she knew that the residents live in close quarters, so she worked with Paskell to donate matching masks for mothers and children.

“Social distancing recommendations, while important to slow the spread of the virus, have caused reports of domestic violence to rise,” said Sleigh. “The people that I met at Carol’s Place were at the forefront of my mind, and I wanted to do something to help them.”

Sean Flenders, executive assistant to the Vice President at The College of Global Studies had similar ideas about filling the PPE gap. He dropped off 500 masks to a distribution center at the beginning of April and has continued to produce more as the need grows.


“I’m not a scientist, so I can’t help that way,” said Sam Merritt ’14, who is an actress in New York City. Since theaters have been closed Merritt has used her sewing knowledge to make masks on her own and as part of the cutters team with Open Jar Studios. “However, this is something that I can do with my time and my hands to help.”

Merritt started sewing masks to provide protection for her grandmother in Philadelphia, which then expanded to her grandmother’s friends who were also venturing out to grocery stores as high-risk individuals. Now, Merritt is focused on donating masks to any assisted living facility that might need them.

For those interested in making masks, Kleckner recommends using pre-washed cotton fabrics so it’s more breathable, with a flannel lining on the inside so it doesn’t irritate the skin after long wear. Masks with nose pieces also require an internal structure to keep shape, and she recommends doubling up on twist ties or using pipe cleaners to fit inside the mask. The pattern she’s using from can be found here for a variety of ages and sizes.