Sewing for Angels – Today’s Rosie the Riveter


JIll:   Good morning, everybody. This is Jill with the Event Technique and Eventsburgh. Today we have two incredible women who have done an absolutely amazing thing in the last two months, I think it’s been. Does that sound about right? I have the folks from Sewing for Angels, today’s Rosie the Riveter Group. And if you don’t know about these folks, you need to. So pay attention. This is important. This group started February, and I have the co-founders here together, Mary Beth Kratsas and Becky Auer, and I’m going to introduce them both to you. Ladies, why don’t you tell me how it all started.

Mary Beth:   Well, do you want me to go first or would you like to go first, Becky?

Becky:   Go ahead and go.

Mary Beth:   Well, it started with me, when my family members, who are all in the medical field. My son works over at Shadyside. My sister is a nurse over at AGH. Her daughter is in the trauma department at AGH, as a trauma nurse. Her brother-in-law’s a respiratory therapist, and there’s several others in the family that are medical. And when the governor said that we had to close our businesses, I have a studio here in Monroeville, MBK Photography. It’s an award winning studio, and I’m a master of photography. I was crushed when I heard I had to close my studio, but totally understood. And I thought, “Wow, my family probably needs masks and my son.” So I called him and he said, “Mom, we hardly have any left. I don’t know what we’re going to do-“

JIll:   Oh, my God!

Mary Beth:   … “Make some for us.” And I’m like, “I’m on it, I’m on it.” So I called my sister, Jackie, and I said, “You know, we got to make masks for Chris and them. You have to do that.” Well, then I read Becky Auers post to her neighbor, which she’s going to talk about. In that post, she had told her, you should make masks for others. And I thought, “Make masks for others. Why not.” I knew that Joann Fabrics was closing the next day. So my sister, Jackie and I went to Greensburg and picked up as much donated fabric as we could get. We told them what we were doing. So they gave us lots of fabric. And then, we went to Monroeville and did the same thing. And then, we realized we were going to go to the North Hills, and we ran out of time.

              We got what we could get, and brought it here to the studio. I said, “I’m going to start a Facebook group page.” So I started this group page, and then I called Becky. I said, “Becky, we got to do this. Let’s do this. Are you on board?” And she’s like, “Yeah, absolutely.” I go, “I read your post, and it inspired me. That’s why I’m calling you. It’s because of you that I decided to do this.” Henceforth, I started a hub here at the studio-

JIll:   Oh my God.

Mary Beth:   … where we made it like an assembly line. People would come in, and they would donate all this fabric, and elastic, and pipe cleaners; everything you would need to make masks. Then had it organized so that we thought, “Hmm. Why don’t we do this? We’ll get this fabric laundered.” I have a woman. Her name is Betha McClelland from Laundry Care. She comes almost twice a week, and picks up all the fabric that needs washed, brings it back. And then, I have volunteers who come in and pick up that fabric, and then, they take it home with the patterns that Becky researched. And with those patterns, they go home and they cut hundreds of masks-

JIll:   Oh, my gosh!

Mary Beth:   … so that our sewers can sew quicker. So then, the sewers would come in, have their husbands come in, and pick up the packages of material that were already cut. Take it home and sew.

JIll:   So it is a learning curve.

Becky:   Jill, I have to tell you, it sounds perfectly perfect. And that’s exactly-

JIll:   Oh no! [crosstalk 00:03:54] go bananas!

Becky:   … with about a thousand other things going on. We had no idea what mask to use. We had no volunteers at the time. Mary Beth put up this page, and then the people in Pittsburgh are so amazing, that they just started joining our group. I, finally, was trying to get it together on the back end; like what do we need? We need people to launder. We need people to cut. We need people to sew. We need cheerleaders. The people that are non- crafty, like myself. Encourage people on.

              So Mary Beth’s story is a hundred percent accurate, but to talk about the bumps and things, to get us to where we are today is… That would make a hilarious interview in and of itself.

JIll:   It really would. Oh, my God. I’ll bet.

Mary Beth:   I’d call Becky, “Oh my God, Becky. What am I… I don’t know what to do?” We just kept doing.

JIll:   There had to be a certain moment where you just went, “What am I doing here?”

Becky:   We did. We said, “We could be sitting on our couch, watching Netflix, and eating bonbons right now. You know that, right?”

JIll:   That’s true. Actually, that’s true.

Mary Beth:   [inaudible 00:05:13].

Becky:   More than once, Jill. More than once.

JIll:   Becky, what’s your side of your story that brought you to this?

Becky:   Yeah. No, it’s exactly what Mary Beth said. I had a neighbor who lost her husband a year earlier. And when Governor Wolfe did the ‘stay at home order’, she came over and she said, “I know you don’t want me in your house, but I’m so upset. I’ve have nothing to look forward to, now. I can’t leave. I can’t do anything.” And she was crying, and I just had to snap her out of it. For those that may know me, I’m a good delegator. And I’m like, “Okay, stop. Dolly, come too, come too. You can sew. You can do something.” And I just wanted to give her a purpose. And I said, “Here’s a mask pattern, go home. You can make masks for people in the healthcare, the frontline, the facilities.” And sent her on her way. And I think I did help her there. And then, I just felt bad. And I posted about it on Facebook. How [vile 00:06:08]. People need a purpose, and then that’s just what happens.

              And so that’s how it all came to be. Mary Beth saw the post, it flipped over, and then this Facebook group emerged. We’re so blessed to have… We started it… You were a little early, Jill. Mary Beth didn’t start it till March 21st-

JIll:   Oh, wow!

Becky:   … and today, May 11th. So what’s that? Five or six weeks. I just looked it up before this. We have 1,127 volunteers.

JIll:   That is fantastic.

Becky:   Yeah. It’s amazing. The volunteers are amazing.

JIll:   Oh, my gosh!

Mary Beth:   They really are. They come to my door when… I say, “Oh my God, thank you for doing this. This is such a blessing. You don’t understand what you’re doing to make a difference.” You know what they say to me? “You gave me a purpose. You gave me a purpose.”

JIll:   That’s awesome.

Mary Beth:   Just like Becky’s next door neighbor. And that’s what everybody says. It’s like, they want to do this. This is coming out of their heart. It’s great.

JIll:   That’s absolutely awesome. It’s amazing when people get into a situation like now, which is unprecedented, how good people can be. How motivated they can be to help other people. And you don’t see that enough when you’re out all the time. But boy, this is just quite the story. So how many masks have you produced so far?

Mary Beth:   Go ahead, Becky. You can announce it.

Becky:   We are… I know, I always let Mary Beth announce it. So, I’ll announce the first time. Because it really… It’s mind blowing. We thought maybe we’d create a hundred or 200 masks. And in just six weeks, our volunteers have helped create 10,400 masks for over facilities of 186, that have requested masks from us. That’s how dire the need is out there. That they don’t have anywhere to turn. And so it really is heartwarming to be able to provide that for them. And if Mary Beth and I were doing it, I think we’d probably have 20 done, because I don’t sew and she sews a little bit. So it’s really-

JIll:   I don’t sew at all anymore. I’d be a mess. It would be sad.

Becky:   [crosstalk 00:08:26] And they’re so grateful too, which is so heartwarming to see.

JIll:   Oh, yes. That is just remarkable. So how do volunteers get ahold of you?

Mary Beth:   They can get ahold of us… Well Becky, I should let you do that one too, because you have it all organized. They can either go on our group site, and become a member of Sewing for Angels. We have a form that Becky actually put together, where they can fill out if they’re a sewer or a donator, or a cutter-

JIll:   Good idea. Okay.

Mary Beth:   … so that we know what categories are. And then, they can simply ask questions, because the new members that come on, don’t know everything that we have organized; to the patterns and how to find them and everything. But now with a website, I think that may help [inaudible 00:09:16].

JIll:   Yeah. That’ll be really cool. So the Facebook group is Sewing for Angels, today’s Rosie the Riveter.

Mary Beth:   Correct.

Becky:   That’s right. And when people join, they will be asked three questions, just so… One of them is an email so we can get a hold of them if we need them. But it’s super simple to join.

JIll:   Oh, that’s too cool. Yeah. If you make it easy, it’s like, they’re in. That’s awesome.

Mary Beth:   Absolutely. Just make sure you fill out that form, because a lot of people don’t. And then we don’t know what they want to do.

JIll:    Yeah, no problem. So when someone gets on board, are you able to assign them a specific role then, if they are multiple things? If they’re sewers and they can cut-

Becky:   If they want to. A lot of people just want to be a cheerleader, and come in and see what’s going on. And that’s great. But what we are really looking for, are people to donate fabric, right now. We’re low on fabric, and people to donate money to buy fabric and other things that we need. Like… What’s the name of the place, Mary Beth, that donated the nose wires for the masks?

Mary Beth:   Yes. They were the Smart Local 12. They’re from Pittsburgh. They are metal workers. The Sheet Metal Rail and Train Workers, here in Pittsburgh.

JIll:   Oh wow, cool!

Mary Beth:   They donated 20,000 metal forms, so that we can put the wire into the masks. Isn’t that amazing?

JIll:   That is awesome.

Mary Beth:   Wait, let me go one step further. They donated these 20,000 and then I have a group… What’s Lou’s last name? Lou…?

Becky:   [Siply? inaudible 00:10:51].

Mary Beth:    No, no, no, no, no. That’s Joe [Siply 00:10:53].

Becky:   Oh, Lou Flores.

Mary Beth:   Oh, Joe [Siply 00:10:56] and Lou Flores. Lou Flores, he’s a firefighter and he’s a wonderful man, and a very religious man. And he has a rosary group in the morning, who had taken these metal pieces, that were a little sharp on the edges. And they’re sitting there while they were praying the rosary [crosstalk 00:11:16] filing down every single piece. We’re talking 20,000.

JIll:   Their support is amazing.

Mary Beth:   Filing them down and making them so that they don’t hurt anybody and they’re not sharp. Isn’t that awesome.

JIll:   Wow. Oh, that’s just wild. And as I’m sitting here, I’m thinking, it never even would’ve crossed my mind that you would have had to round the corners. Which of course you would have so you don’t poke yourself. But wow, that’s just awesome. What other groups are involved?

Mary Beth:   Well, we have Commonwealth Press. They actually donated rolls of t-shirt material, so that we can make the ties for the masks.

JIll:   Oh, cool.

Mary Beth:   There are several different types of masks. That’s very, very, very helpful. Joann fabrics, in the beginning, donated a bunch of material for us. Lachina Drapery,-

JIll:   Oh my, yes. Fabulous.

Mary Beth:   … they brought over this huge white roll of material. So that’s almost gone.

JIll:   Oh my God.

Mary Beth:   Yeah. We’ve been working hard with-

Becky:   It’s tricky too, Jill, because if you just make a mask and both sides are the same, you don’t know which side you wore up against your face. So that’s why that donation from Lachina Drapery was so important, because we could make one side… Or the sewers or whoever, can make the one side white and the other side of pattern. [crosstalk 00:12:36] So you know which one to put up against your face to not reinfect yourself.

JIll:   Yeah. Actually, that’s important. So now, you’re looking for volunteers. You’re looking for what other things? Do you need-

Becky:   We need sewers. We have a lot of people even over… It was Mother’s Day yesterday, and I, here in the North Hills… So I have not as an elaborate hub as Mary Beth, but we have pickup and drop off locations around the city. And I happened to be in the North, but I had two huge tubs of fabric donated. And I just put a post up on our page like, “Hey North Hills. I need all this fabric washed.” Because I didn’t want to take it to Mary Beth, have Betha go and wash it, and bring it all the way back. And people, on Mother’s Day, came out. All the fabric was gone, and they brought it back last night. I told Mary Beth, I must have enough mask material cut out, dropped off by people who washed and cut previous to this, for another 1000 masks.

              But we need people to cut fabric. We need people to donate fabric. We need people to help us wash. We need pick up and delivery people. And we just need people that are cheerleaders. Or if you know somebody who would like to make a big donation, like a big fabric donation or a big monetary donation, or hook us up with a grant. So we could get all the supplies we need; that would be absolutely perfect. We’d be partnered up; I think it’s really important.

              Then about three weeks into it, we got approached by Pittsburgh Gateways Corporation. And they were like, “Hey, do you need a little help.” But we’re like, “Oh yes, please. Are you kidding? Yes.” And so they really have stepped up to help us put into place, if there are any people who have a big donation, or even the small donations, that they can get a tax write off, now, for their business or themselves.

JIll:   That’s awesome!

Becky:   So it was really awesome, we’re partnered with them now, and that’s where our website’s hosted and everything. So anybody that would have a hookup for money, or fabric, or any type of donation, we can give them a tax write off now. So it’s really, really important. And we’re thrilled to be partnered with them.

JIll:   Oh, that’s awesome. Can you give me the website?

Becky:   They’re amazing. It’s Pittsburgh Gateways Corporation, and I’ll send you the link because if you just type in Google, Pittsburgh Gateways Corporation, Sewing for Angels, it’ll take you to the website, but it’s not a short website [crosstalk 00:15:08].

JIll:   Well, kudos to them, because that’s really, really cool. At this point, you look at businesses, and they’re being crushed; absolutely crushed. They need money to pay their people, and all these sorts of things. And it’s devastating to watch. So for them to step up and get involved, and host everything, and take you under their wing, is just awesome.

Becky:   Yeah. They’re awesome people.

Mary Beth:   They are amazing. They truly are amazing.

JIll:   Awesome. So tell me what else you’ve got coming up. How do people get in touch with you and those sorts of things. Anything else special coming up on the horizon?

Mary Beth:   Yes. Becky, I’ll let you talk about Shellie Hipsky, The Global Sisterhood.

Becky:   Oh yeah. Dr. Shellie Hipsky had Inspiring Lives Magazine, and if anybody knows her, she loves to get glammed up.

Mary Beth:   Oh, she does. [crosstalk 00:16:03].

              She was the director of photography for a while.

Becky:   And I was actually an honoree one year.

JIll:   You were?

Becky:   Their very first year, for Inspiring Lives, Empowering Women Award. And, and so she saw us on social media, and reached out and said, “Hey, I am hosting now, a virtual, of course, award show for Empowering Women of Philanthropy. What I’d like to do is have a 6:30 to 7:30 PM, where everybody can get glammed up in their house, and take pictures and share.

JIll:   That is awesome.

Becky:   It’s so cool. And she said, “And I’ll put a whole lineup together of people that are musical talents type of talent. And we’ll all be able to sip cocktails, get glammed up. And sip cocktails and watch this. It’s almost like a telethon.” The tickets are free, but anybody who would make a donation, all of the donations… Even though she’s a nonprofit, all of the donations that night will come to Sewing for Angels to-

JIll:   Oh, awesome!

Becky:   … support us. It really is [interesting 00:17:15]. It will be so fun. It’s on May 22nd. You can get tickets through Eventbrite.

JIll:   And it’s free.

Becky:   And it’s free. But again, if you want to make a donation… It’s going to be like a little telethon. So hopefully, when somebody sees someone that they love who’s singing or performing, they’ll make a donation, and all those donations come to us. So it’s May 22nd from 6:30 till 9:00 at night. And they can get all the information on Eventbright.

JIll:   Oh, that’s awesome. Make sure you drop it into Eventsburgh, because then we’ll be able to put that out to everybody on our list as well. So that will be super, super cool. [crosstalk 00:17:51].

Becky:   [crosstalk 00:17:50] to her for stepping up [crosstalk 00:17:54].

Mary Beth:   Yeah, seriously. And there’s going to be performers. Jessica Lee will be there, Dan Burda. Who else was on that list?

Becky:   [crosstalk 00:18:01] They’ve got 20 people already, and she keeps getting more. She’s already prerecording her thing, so she can have all her outfit changes. She’s hilarious.

JIll:  Oh, that’s funny.

Becky:   She has such a good heart. So it should be a really fun event.

JIll:   That’s cool.

Mary Beth:   Should be.

JIll:   That’s cool.

              The dog’s getting rowdy here. So, tell me what else… The other thing we touched on, you are actively involved with CF. So if you want to touch a little bit on that event while we’re chatting, that would cool too.

Becky:   That would be great. So my daughter has cystic fibrosis, unfortunately. But I have been involved with the CF Foundation since… Well, she’s 22. So for 21 years, and was vice president on the board for about 15 years. And we’re having our Great Strides Walk that is coming up on… Well, it was supposed to be next Sunday at 11. So we’re going to do a virtual CF walk this year, and I’m going to help emcee it with the CF Foundation of Western Pennsylvania. So it should be great. It’s unfortunate, because it’s really become a family event for us and many of the CF families. But everybody’s doing the best that they can do. So, thanks for allowing me to mention it. It’s just-

JIll:   Oh, absolutely.

Becky:   I feel all foundationed up here with everything. [inaudible 00:19:19] You can’t raise enough money fast enough for all these events.

JIll:   And you need to have a net, and nonprofits provide all that, which is just amazing. It’s really, really cool to see how much good is out there right now, and the news is filled with horrible stuff and all these kinds of things.

Becky:   Oh, God. Yes.

JIll:   It really is just some amazing work going on. So, I just wanted to thank both of you for coming out and, chatting with me a little bit. We’ll try and do our best to make sure we can get out as much information as possible. So send me everything you have; the links to all the things, put the events on Eventsburgh, and we’ll post that and send that out. Anything else you want to talk to me about? We’ll try and get the word out for volunteers and-

Mary Beth:   Yeah. We just need volunteers, and the people that are volunteering… I used to work on movies and films in Pittsburgh. I used to work in production, and I was a talent agent, and a casting assistant for Nancy Mosser; Nancy Mosser Casting. Nancy Mosser came to Becky’s house yesterday to pick up, and launder, and cut.

JIll:   Oh my gosh.

Mary Beth:   I have people from Nancy Mosser Casting. I have Alex Andres, who’s also a lighting cameraman. And he’s doing delivery for me. Shelly Robinson, who is a producer and a director here in Pittsburgh that did commercials and industrials. And it’s just all these people are coming out of the woodwork.

JIll:   Oh, that’s cool.

Mary Beth:   Greg, who has directed movies. So they’re all helping us do this, as well. And they’re all people that are pretty well known.

JIll:   That’s awesome. I can see a documentary in your future. That’s pretty neat.

Becky:   It really is. The people in Pittsburgh… I always say that people in Pittsburgh have the biggest hearts. And when you talk, we can talk sometimes, I see the people on my porch through the door, and I’m always trying to take pictures, because we want them to know how much we appreciate them. There is no way that we could have, just as two people, done this. But it is interesting, when you put a group together, and they are focused on one thing that, that ‘Pittsburgh pride’ certainly comes through and it shows you’re ‘Pittsburgh strong’.

JIll:   That is indeed. That does my heart [crosstalk 00:21:36].

Becky:   We are.

JIll:   That’s just awesome.

Becky:    Thank you so much, Jill for having us.

Mary Beth:   Yeah. Thank you, Jill. Thank you so much for having us on. This really means a lot to us.

JIll:   Once I saw it, I’m like, “Oh, I got to do something. This is great.” And you don’t want me to sew. You really don’t want me to sew-

Mary Beth:   Me either.

JIll:   … good, ever. No, no. So tell everybody one more time what the name of the group is, where they can find you on Facebook. Is there a phone number that you want to give, or is it all through Facebook?

Becky:   Everything’s pretty much for Facebook. It’s just the easiest way for us to keep track of it. It’s Sewing for Angels Facebook group. It’s a private group. Today’s Rosie, the Riveter. They can find us there. They can go to… Type in Pittsburgh Gateways Corporation, Sewing for Angels, and find our website on their website. Anybody that would be interested in giving a really big grant to us to help us continue to support the healthcare workers and facilities, we would surely appreciate it.

JIll:   Oh, awesome. Well ladies-

Mary Beth:   I’ll give a shout out with my phone number, to the people who aren’t on the internet that aren’t out there. I don’t know if they’ll see this. My phone number here at the studio, MBK, is (412) 229-8749.

JIll:   Okay, cool. Because believe it or not, there are some folks that aren’t on the internet.

Becky:   You’re right.

JIll:   There just are. But anyway, I just wanted to thank you so much. We’ll do our part to get this in front of as many people as possible. What you guys are doing is absolutely amazing. So I’m just so grateful you were here. Keep it up. Go, man. I can’t wait to see you hit that 20,000 mark. It’s not too far away.

Mary Beth:   Us, too. And by then, you’ll ask us, “Do you have 20,000 made? Guess how many more we need?”

JIll:   Yeah. More.

Becky:   They come in every day. We’re going to try and keep it up as long as we can.

JIll:   Oh, that is awesome. Well, you guys take care. I will definitely follow along, and we’ll post some updates and things. So take care of yourselves.

Mary Beth:   Air hugs.

JIll:   Keep doing it. Yeah. Thank you so much for what you’re doing. It is just awesome, awesome work. So, you guys have a great day and we’ll catch up soon, okay?

Becky:   Thank you, Jill.

JIll:   All right.

Mary Beth:   Thank you, Jill.

JIll:   Thanks, everybody.

Mary Beth:   Thank you.

JIll:   You guys have a great day.

Mary Beth:   Bye.

JIll:   Bye bye.

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