Trinity Catholic Academy student-made masks, lanyards are acts of kindness

Alyssa Savitch (left) and Gabby Bulak, seventh-graders at Trinity Catholic Academy in LaSalle, put sewing skills learned from their mothers to good use when the COVID-19 pandemic made masks necessary last yuear. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

LASALLE — Wearing masks is no fun, especially if they’re uncomfortable or get lost when you remove them for lunch. Enter Gabby Bulak and Alyssa Savitch, seventh-graders at Trinity Catholic Academy.

Both learned to sew from their mothers, aunts and grandparents and they decided to put those skills to good use when the COVID-19 pandemic made masks necessary last year.

“I started sewing by hand at first . . . a few masks at a time,” said Bulak, who was wearing a pretty green mask of her own making during the interview, which was scheduled for the day before St. Patrick’s Day. Now she has a sewing machine.

Gabby Bulak holds a mask. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

“I wanted to make them for people to have homemade masks so they wouldn’t have to keep using the disposable ones. Those come in a box, but you run out of them really quickly,” she explained. “I wanted to make homemade ones so people could wash them and reuse them.”

The masks have three layers, with the same design on the inside and outside layers and a plain fabric for the inside layer. While she didn’t always have another layer inside, she added one to make the masks safer.

Bulak uses elastic for the ear loops, but doesn’t include a wire nose piece unless people ask for one. She said she doesn’t like the way it looks after the mask is washed.

Savitch came up with the idea to sell lanyards with a clip on the end so people would have a way to keep track of their masks when they had to be removed. The lanyards are folded and ironed three times and then stitched to provide a durable and fashionable accessory.

While the masks and lanyards are sold separately, Bulak and Savitch will make matching sets upon request.

LESSONS LEARNED

They have each established an Etsy shop and being in business has taught them how to budget their money to provide the best value while still maintaining a fair price. Bulak is selling children’s masks for $6 each and adult masks for $8 each. Savitch’s lanyards are $5 each.

The girls have used their profits to make donations to causes near and dear to them. Bulak has supported the LaSalle Veterans Home and Illinois Valley Animal Rescue, while Savitch has made contributions to CCD Smiles, which aids those with cleidocranial dysplasia.

Alyssa Savitch displays a lanyard. (The Catholic Post/Jennifer Willems)

Things have changed since people first started wearing masks, they said.

“You’re used to wearing masks now, instead of ‘I can’t breathe in this’ when you first started,” Savitch said.

“It’s more comfortable,” Bulak added. “At first it was so uncomfortable and so out of the ordinary to wear things on your face. But now I’ve gotten used to it.”

“Now it’s weird to have your mask off,” Savitch said.

“I’m hoping, once we don’t have to wear masks anymore — hopefully soon — that I can find a new product to make,” Bulak said.

In the meantime, both play volleyball and basketball at Trinity Catholic, and Bulak plays softball in the summer. They each like science and Savitch enjoys literature.

“The students of Trinity Catholic Academy genuinely live the words of Jesus to serve others as he does,” said Deb Myers, principal. “Alyssa and Gabby’s heartfelt acts of kindness are a true testimony of the goodness of our young people in the midst of a global pandemic.”

She added that she is “blessed to share the mission of our school with these two amazing young women.”

The daughter of Stacy and Joe Savitch, Alyssa’s lanyards can be found at CraftsbyAlyssaCo on etsy.com. Bulak is the daughter of Julie and Tim Bulak. To find her masks, look for Stitchesbygabby on etsy.com.

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