School employees make masks, provide food for community heroes

Facilities director Mike Satterfield and Spring Hill Elementary School Nutrition Manager Michelle "Shae" Cleghorn model masks that bring smiles to faces during these uncertain times.

When there is a crisis, people always step up to help each other. While our nation and community is experiencing scary and uncertain times, there are many everyday heroes who are out front, putting their lives on the line to help others, and then there are those who are behind-the-scenes, doing what they can to make sure those on the frontlines stay safe and protected.

Every week since school closures were mandated, the Fayette County Public School System’s School Nutrition Program employees, school bus drivers and monitors, and After School Program staff have been hard at work preparing, serving and delivering meals to children who need them. School is the only source of a daily meal for some students, so these frontline workers stepped up to fill the gap, allowing children to focus their attention on virtual learning activities, and not worry about how, when or where they are going to get their next meal.

These staff members realize that by being out in the public, they are putting themselves at risk, but their passion to feed hungry children outshines any fears that they have for themselves. They have been following all guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Georgia Department of Public Health (social distancing, wearing gloves, staying home if sick) to protect themselves and others. Recent COVID-19 guidance suggests that everyone wear a face covering, but due to demand, face masks are nearly impossible to find, and even materials to make cloth masks are getting scarce. This is where the behind-the-scenes heroes come to the rescue.

Enter the Fayette County Mask Makers, a group of about 40 Fayette County Public School teachers, who during their off time from teaching virtual classes, are busy sewing cloth masks for those who need them. The group formed at the beginning of the pandemic to help healthcare workers and first responders make their paper face masks last longer by wearing the cloth coverings over the top. Now, they are helping their own colleagues by providing face coverings to those prepping and delivering meals, as well as to custodians, facilities maintenance staff, and other essential school system employees who are reporting to work.

The group’s organizer, Sherri Dickerson, a special education teacher at Whitewater Mill Middle, says over 150 masks have been sent to maintenance workers, custodial staff, and essential employees at the county office. For the school system’s meal preparation and distribution sites, she has given 25 masks to staff at North Fayette Elementary, another 25 to staff at Spring Hill Elementary, and 50 to staff at Fayette County High. Also, she has delivered 25 to the school system’s transportation department for bus drivers who are taking meals to children at various mobile sites around the county.

School Nutrition Program Director Kokeeta Wilder says the masks provided by the Fayette County Mask Makers are greatly appreciated by her and the school nutrition staff.

“This was very thoughtful and we appreciate the support of our staff on the front lines. Our staff really like them because they are lightweight, and don’t feel bulky when they are working,” says Wilder.

Dickerson says she has personally distributed over 6,000 masks around the county since the group started sewing. Recipients include Piedmont Fayette Hospital, Fayette County Fire Department, Fayette County Sheriff’s Department, Azalea Estates, Ashley Glenn, Fayetteville Chick-fil-A Dwarf House, and various animal hospitals. Countless other masks have been handed out by the more than 300 members who have joined the group’s private Facebook page.