GREATER GRAND CROSSING — Darius Mason had never sewn prior to the coronavirus outbreak, but as he watched thousands come down with the disease — including members of his own family — he knew he had to do something to help.
“I wanted to help protect people who are in need and help everybody be safe,” he said. “Everybody’s trying to work on this together.”
With his mom, Cikea, the St. Thomas the Apostle 7th grader collected fabrics and elastics, learned how to sew and got to work making masks for essential employees. To date, Darius and his family members have sewn more than 400 masks for officers at the Chicago Police Department, workers at the the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center and nurses at area health care centers.
They’ve also donated snack packs with trail mix, Goldfish crackers and cereal bars to essential workers and emergency rooms.
The mission is a personal one for Darius — his great-great-aunt died from coronavirus. Another great-uncle is recovering from the virus, his mother said.
Most requests for masks have come through family members. Cikea’s cousin works for the juvenile facility, so workers there reach out for a mask.
A detainee and employees at the detention center have contracted the virus.
“It initially started off with family and people that we knew were essential workers,” Cikea said. “Then it kind of spiraled out and we ended up getting an influx of orders.”
It hasn’t been easy balancing the mask-making project with virtual schoolwork and helping to take care of his brothers and dogs, Darius said.
“There’s very little time for me to get everything done,” he said.
Cikea said she’s tried to help with the workload when Darius gets tired.
“We weren’t expecting it to be so popular,” she said. “It’s refreshing but also a little tiring, too.”
Despite the additional stress, Darius said he plans on making masks indefinitely. After seeing the virus’s impact on his family, he wants others to take the disease seriously and do everything they can to protect those most at risk of infection.
“It gets really bad, and older people can pass away from it,” Mason said.
Those interested in donating fabrics, elastics, thread and snacks can email Cikea Mason to arrange a drop-off.
Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.