Making Masks

Kate Borza has made 4,000 masks … and counting

Gloria Horn, of Gloria Horn Sewing Studio at 300 Castle Shannon Boulevard, made the news all over Pittsburgh for her generous donations of masks to essential workers throughout the duration of the pandemic.

On April 22, the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police posted on their Facebook Page, “[We] would like to thank Gloria Horn from Gloria Horn … for donating roughly 1,000 homemade masks to the Bureau, enough to cover the entire police force, including the training academy.”

But that was just a fraction of her overall donations—at the time this was written, Gloria estimated she had reached the 9,000 mark, which she donated to each South Hills police department and other essential workers in the area. She even created face mask kits, selling for $22 and up on, so that the average person can make their own masks at home to help protect themselves.

When we put out the call for stories about COVID-19, however, we learned that it has become commonplace for Mt. Lebanon residents—without the resources of an established sewing businesses—to dust off their old sewing machines to make their own mask contributions to the community.

Linda Hackett rallied friends together to make masks that would be included in the high school lunch pickup.

Mt. Lebanon Magazine photographer Linda Hackett is one such resident, who organized friends Kelly Elphinstone, Elizabeth Chrystal, Reese Sullivan, Jack Sullivan, Grace Elphinstone, Sherry Chrystal and Natalie Kukla to make masks that could be included in the high school lunch packages, which are free to any student under the age of 18.

Similarly, Diane Riley, owner of Lebanon Shops Pharmacy, at 300 Mt. Lebanon Boulevard, made regular donations of masks to the Mt. Lebanon and Castle Shannon police departments. Mt. Lebanon high school and middle school teachers used 3D printers to make more than 300 face shields for St. Clair Hospital and local first responders. Then, so many people responded to Mt. Lebanon Police Department’s call for homemade masks, which they posted following Governor Wolf’s recommendation on April 3, that by April 9, every officer had a mask.

School PPE production

One of the largest-volume mask-making operations in the Mt. Lebanon area, however, actually comes from the efforts of Mt. Lebanon freshman Kate Borza, Parker Drive, who, at the time of publication, had made and donated 4,000 masks country-wide.

“I have sewing experience, so I found a pattern online, and we just went with it,” says Kate, who has been sewing day and night, with only the help of her mother, Melanie, since the pandemic shutdowns began in March. “At first, they were just supposed to be for people on the front lines, and nursing homes. But individuals around the neighborhood started asking, so we opened it up.”

Since Melanie put the word out on Facebook, the orders haven’t stopped. So far, Kate has shipped masks to New York City, Oklahoma, and various other locations around the U.S. The masks are free, but many people make donations, which has helped cover a lot of the materials and shipping costs.

Kate wants to play college softball someday, so she was extremely disappointed to miss her freshman season. “I played one game before this all started. It was so sad. We need to get everyone better so I can play softball again!” jokes Kate. “Everyone needs to do their part. If people just sit at home and do nothing, nothing will get done.”