Jaclyn Thomas, ’12, likes keeping busy and helping her community.

Her current project is making masks for nurses and additional essential workers, though she also helps others in need.

While Thomas hasn’t kept track of how many masks she’s made, she’s spent about 200 hours on her solo assembly line, doing a number of steps on about 20 masks at once.

In another effort to help others, she did a Facebook Live session showing one way to sew masks, step by step.

The idea of making masks came up when best friend Michelle Bodnar, ’15, needed to learn to sew in March as COVID-19 cases began rising rapidly.

“She’s a hospital nurse and was trying to make her own masks because she was possibly going into a COVID-19 unit,” Thomas said. “Another friend works in an office that helps rape victims. Her staff needed masks, too.”

For someone who started sewing at 5 and got a fashion merchandising degree from Ball State, Thomas knew what to do. She began March 25.

Making masks is just a small part of her busy days. She has a full-time marketing job in Indianapolis; volunteers with service group Epsilon Sigma Alpha’s chapter in Fishers, Indiana (she began in Ball State’s chapter); and owns a business, College Debt Crafts[WJ1] , that sells custom T-shirts and other items to help repay her student loans.

Thomas has always loved creating crafts, and she opened her Etsy store to help get through losing her mother, two dogs, and two cats in a year. Mom was her first sewing teacher. At Ball State, she singled out Pam Stigall for instructing her in advanced methods. “I spent so many hours in class perfecting my skills.”

She’s gotten some help with her newest endeavor. Dad cuts Shop-Vac filters for inserts and wire for nose pieces, plus she’s recruited donors of material and money. When she finishes a batch, she leaves them on her Indy home’s porch for pickup. “I haven’t gotten to the point of having a large surplus to make a big drop (at a hospital or similar site).”

Requests for her masks have receded, but she knows virus-related restrictions are easing. “As more people go back to work, demand will go up.”

Jaclyn Thomas, who earned a degree in fashion merchandising, turned her lifelong skills in sewing into a public service when COVID-19 began rising rapidly.