Handmade masks to be presented to ICSD elementary and middle school students. (photo: courtesy of Steven Manley)

When Ithaca City School District reopens for in-person instruction on Oct. 5, younger students can expect to find at least one hand-sewn face covering waiting for them when they arrive.

The PTA Council (PTAC) of the Ithaca City School District (ICSD), made up of representatives of all PTAs within the 12 ICSD schools, partnered with the Ithaca Public Education Initiative (IPEI) and more than 70 local mask-making volunteers to create over 1,500 masks.

The council received support from local vendors Dibella’s Subs and Sew Green/Ithaca Sews, volunteers, and supporters Nora Burrows, Anne Marie Eckert, Sarah Feldt, Andy Ruina and Christy Kinkhabwala at Over the Moon Preschool. The materials were donated by Joann Fabrics.

"We thought we could come together, as a community, and help each school have a homemade, washable cloth mask for every student who returns to school buildings the next week," said former PTAC president Jonathan Butcher.

Steven Manley, IPEI’s Executive Director, organized the volunteers composed of community members from the PTA units, local churches and other community groups. Over three weeks, Butcher and Manley coordinated house pickups and dropoffs, with multiple people carting supplies back and forth as they ran low. Before long they’d surpassed their goal of 1,000 masks.

"When I started picking up masks this week, I was amazed at the quality and the love that went into these items — it's a testament to how much our community cares for its youngest members," shared Steve Manley. “So far, more than 1,500 masks have been made or pledged, exceeding our goal of 1,000. In less than four weeks.” 

The masks will be delivered to eight ICSD elementary schools and two middle schools on Oct. 2, just in time for students to receive them on Monday.

"As our students return to school buildings, we wanted an opportunity to show our support,” Butcher said. Butcher and Manley are currently waiting to hear back from principals to learn what the remaining need is after school resumes. From there they’ll determine if they’ll continue their effort.


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