Huskies helping Huskies on the front-line

During a recent NIU Operating Staff Council (OSC) Workplace Issues committee meeting, Housing and Residential Services Associate Director Lauren Teso-Warner expressed a need for personal protective equipment for Housing staff.  Teso-Warner indicated that there are approximately 500 students still living on campus, and community advisors are on the front-line providing services and support for those students.  

OSC member and Holmes Student Center (HSC) Administrative Aide Patricia Gingrich, followed up with Teso-Warner after the meeting to offer assistance. With donations of old t-shirts from Housing, Gingrich rallied other HSC staff, including Maya Croslow, Judy Stecker and Heidi Nelson, and began sewing masks for Housing staff and students. Knowing there was a potential need for hundreds of masks, Gingrich realized they would need additional help and reached out to Aline Click, director of eLearning Services and the Digital Convergence Lab in the Division of Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development.

Click is the primary contact for The Giving Project: Crafting for a Cause. The Giving Project is a group of students, faculty, staff (civil service and supportive professional staff) and retirees who gather to create useful items for Huskie students in need. Right now, that need is face masks. Several of The Giving Project group members responded with an immediate offer of assistance and support.  

These masks, created from donated Tshirts, are the result of a collaborative effort by the NIU community to address the need for personal protective equipment for first responders on campus. 

Public Safety staff are making mask straps that alleviate the pressure behind the ears from the elastic on face masks. Cindy Carlson, Amy Hoard, Lisa Nelson and Emma Smith are crocheting the straps and sewing buttons onto them. They’ve made about 300 so far for first responders and other members of the community.

Dispatcher Carlson said, “We want to help make things easier for anyone we can. It’s our job to help people, and this is another way we can help.”

What began as a simple gesture has grown into an NIU community collaboration between Housing and Residential Services, Holmes Student Center, The Giving Project, Employee Assistance Program, Police and Public Safety and many other staff across campus. 

Gingrich explained, “I simply wanted to help meet a need. Wearing a mask isn’t just to protect ourselves, it protects our families, co-workers and community.” She went on to express gratitude for all those giving of their time and resources.

Materials are still needed for making face masks and include elastic, paracord and old NIU t-shirts. T-shirts must be clean and in good condition, with no rips or tears. For additional information on how to donate materials as well as a list of materials, pattern and instructions for making a face mask, visit The Giving Project or email the dcl@niu.edu or pgingrich@niu.edu

NIU students can obtain a free face mask by showing their OneCard ID when picking up a meal at New Hall or by visiting the NIU Police Dispatch Center, located next to Health Services on Wirtz Dr. Masks will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis and will be replenished as they become available.

Watch for an upcoming announcement where there will be a TEAMS brown bag meeting on how to make the personal face masks, co-sponsored by the Employee Assistance Program and Training Center,  The Giving Project and the OSC Public Relations/Activities Committee.

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