CSU rallies to provide masks for employees still on campus

Noah Pasley

While the COVID-19 outbreak has resulted in uncertainty nationwide from lost jobs to virtual classes, it has also united offices across campus in an effort to produce masks for the employees left at Colorado State University, including the CSU Police Department, Housing & Dining Services and other departments. 

Lise Youngblade, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences, said she became involved in the conversation about producing masks “serendipitously” after CSU President Joyce McConnell asked to put together a task force to organize ways to give back to the community during the ongoing crisis. 

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protective face mask
A pile of masks received by the college of Health and Human Sciences from a community sewing effort in Fort Collins. The masks were made by the local sewing guild and volunteers from the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising at Colorado State University. (Photo Courtesy of Kimberly Winger, Executive Director of Development for the college of Health and Human Sciences)

“In just about three weeks, we have delivered 558 masks on campus to CSUPD, Housing & Dining Services, Facilities Management and Environmental Health Services,” Youngblade said. “The number we were requested to make (was) 1,035, so in the next couple of weeks, we will have sent out over a thousand masks.”

In an email to The Collegian, Adam Smith, a sergeant with CSUPD, wrote the department received 130 cloth masks, including 105 from CSU Theatre and 25 from Crossroads Church.

Youngblade said the effort is largely a collaboration between the College of Health and Human Sciences’ Nancy Richardson Design Center and the University Center for the Arts’ Costume Shop, as well as friends and alumni of the University.

“The Costume Shop really started the effort (and) very quickly produced several hundred masks,” Youngblade said. “By pulling all their efforts, we’re pulling this off. It’s this neat collaboration that is occurring on campus that I don’t know if we didn’t have this crisis, that we would have this collaboration. So it’s a silver lining from this work.”

In a crisis moment, I think there’s a natural urge to ask ‘What can I do to help?’ This is a way that people are helping, but it is also a way of honoring the people that are really in these essential positions at CSU, … and this is some way we can say we really appreciate what you’re doing.” -Lise Youngblade, dean, CSU College of Health and Human Sciences

Elise Kulovany, Costume Shop manager at the UCA, said the project has been a nonstop effort at balancing sewing with other duties in the shop. Kulovany has been working with Becky Evans, a cutter and draper at the department, Cooper Adams, the assistant master electrician, and several other work-study students.

“There is no typical day with this,” Kulovany wrote in an email to The Collegian. “Becky and I have been sewing generally (8 a.m. to 5 p.m.) Monday-Friday with meetings interspersed in our week. We talk multiple times a day and recognize when one another needs to take a break and shift our work to the evenings for those days that we need to meet a deadline or feel like we didn’t accomplish enough during the day. We’re grateful to have work and happy to help out the community.”
 
Kulovany wrote that students are worried about the future of the department and their shows, as well as navigating the “immense shift” in remote learning. 
 
“We’re sad we can’t bring our art to the community as a whole through our shows,” Kulovany wrote. “There’s nothing comparable to live theatre and a group of students coming together to accomplish something great.”
protective face mask
A pile of masks received by the college of Health and Human Sciences from a community sewing effort in Fort Collins. The masks were made by the local sewing guild and volunteers from the Avenir Museum of Design and Merchandising at Colorado State University. (Photo Courtesy of Kimberly Winger, Executive Director of Development for the college of Health and Human Sciences)
 
But, the project is allowing students and faculty at the UCA to discover new ways to keep its small “Ramily” engaged, with Zoom sessions and one-on-one check-ins being implemented, Kulovany wrote. 
 
“It’s great to have the support system we do amongst those sewing, and we can reach out to one another whenever we’re not feeling 100%,” Kulovany wrote.
 

Faculty and volunteers have been working “in and around their jobs” to produce masks as part of the grassroots effort, Youngblade said. Requests come in from the CSU community through the COVID-19 response planning team to Youngblade, who then adds them to the list of masks needed. 

Youngblade said there isn’t so much a chain of command for this operation as there is a web of people and departments.

“In a crisis moment, I think there’s a natural urge to ask ‘What can I do to help?'” Youngblade said. “This is a way that people are helping, but it is also a way of honoring the people that are really in these essential positions at CSU, … and this is some way we can say we really appreciate what you’re doing. So for me, it’s wrapped up in caring and gratitude.”

Noah Pasley can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @PasleyNoah.