Giving back

Tessa and Donna Hertel pose for a picture after making hundreds of masks for the local community.  

Dawn Rye | Writer

The saying goes, “It’s better to give than to receive.” Many people give for various reasons — it makes them happy, it evokes gratitude and promotes social connection. For one local family to take unwanted material and make masks during the pandemic was their way of giving back.

Tessa and Donna Hertel started making masks at the beginning of March when the national pandemic was going on. 

Tessa explained that the duo was going through a closet one day and found tons of material that her grandma Donna didn’t want. She said they heard on the news that many places needed cloth masks, so they took the material and starting sewing. 

“I have always been told if you receive, then you need to give back. When I was sick and going through my liver transplant, my community was there for me and now it was my turn to pay it forward and give back to my community,” commented Tessa. 

Tessa noted she posted on Facebook that she and her grandma had started making masks. From that moment on the requests began to roll in. She explained they never charged for the masks and roughly made around 300 cloth masks. Tessa said they used cotton fabric, ponytails for the ear straps to make them durable to wash and reuse. She noted they also donated 40 masks to Lifescape in Sioux Falls, dentist offices and many other places that needed masks. 

She noted she remembers that she and her grandma were up till 1 a.m. cutting and sewing because people needed masks for work the following day. Tessa said her mom, Jane Hertel, did a lot of the delivery since the duo was quarantined. Tessa explained that Donna’s health issue was because of her age and most people that know her know due to her immunosuppressed anti-rejection meds she takes for her liver. 

She said they would continue to make masks and use the unwanted material in her grandma’s closet. 

Tessa explained the most challenging part was keeping on top of the request and her first attempt at making a mask took her two hours. She said now it takes her about five minutes to make a mask. 

During the process, Tessa enjoyed spending time with her grandma. Tessa said her grandma loves to sew and to have the chance to learn all her tricks was neat. 

“We also ended up making a parody of the song “Driving my life away” by Eddie Rabbitt and we changed the lyrics and made up “Sewing My Life Away” by Tessa and Donna Hertel. 

She continued, “That song video was a lot of fun to make with grandma and memories I will cherish forever.”

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