Feature Story

Mask maker extraordinaire

Cathy Hayman (’89) leads national volunteer group in making masks for frontline workers, vulnerable groups during pandemic
By: Kayla Blanchard (’21), Layton Fisher Intern in Philanthropy

There is no question that the global COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on all of us in unique ways. Despite this affliction, communities across Canada have been coming together to spread love and make light of the situation.

Third-generation Allisonian Cathy Hayman (’89) is no exception, joining alongside a large group of volunteers with the newly-formed organization Canada Sews.

Canada Sews was set in motion by a group from Ontario back at the beginning of the nation-wide quarantine period in March 2020. The goal was to provide face masks for frontline workers in need since many companies were shut down and there was nowhere to purchase them at the time. Volunteers found each other on Facebook, some sewing with donated fabrics, some washing and packaging, and others driving the prepared masks to the local facilities. As the word spread about the work being done across social media, the number of volunteers continued to grow until Canada Sews became a huge movement across several provinces.

Hayman’s involvement in the organization happened coincidentally, within two weeks of the initial start-up.

“I came across some fabric and, being unable to sew, reached out to a friend about making some face masks for myself and my family,” she says. “I was first introduced to the organization when my friend asked if she could use the remainder of the material for the Canada Sews movement.”

This interaction then led her to offer her services of washing and packaging the masks and, later on, becoming a kind of liaison for the group.

“All masks available for donation and we would then decide how many masks would be donated to each facility that put in a request,” she says. “When Canada Sews was at its busiest, I would spend about 16 hours per day washing, packaging, and assigning locations for each.”

As companies began to re-open, the need for masks amongst frontline workers began to slow and Canada Sews switched its focus to vulnerable populations. For example, the organization connected with anti-poverty groups across the country in order to ensure that every child had a mask to get on the bus and attend school. However, with the requests slowing down, Canada Sews is looking to wind down and finish its work.

With the group's work finishing up, Hayman looks back on the experience fondly, thinking of all of the new friendships that were made throughout.

“Canada Sews ended up having 27 regions across Canada working and each group had its own Facebook page for their volunteers,” she says. “Because of this, Canadians within each area were able to find a sense of community, bonding over their interest in philanthropy throughout the pandemic. For me, that’s something really special that’s come out of the pandemic.”

While COVID-19 has undoubtedly created challenges, Mounties can rest assured that alumni like Cathy Hayman are still spreading joy and making times easier for the rest of us.

For more information on the history of Canada Sews and instructions for mask patterns, check out their website at www.canadasews.ca