APWU Member Makes and Donates Over 1,000 Face Masks

May 7, 2021

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(This article first appeared in the May/June 2021 issue of the American Postal Worker magazine)

When the COVID-19 pandemic caused the country to shut down in March 2020, APWU retiree Vicky Crouse was in a rented hospital bed at home in Industry, IL, recovering from surgery on a pinched nerve in her arm. While watching newscasts, Crouse heard anchors talking about the need for people to wear facemasks to protect themselves and others from the deadly virus.

Crouse knew exactly how she could help. A long-time sewer, there was a lot of fabric in her closet. She decided to use it to make and donate facemasks.

Crouse took up quilting as a way to heal following a car accident in 1997 that caused a severe spinal cord injury and left her paralyzed from the chest down. Following eight months of intensive rehab, she regained strength in her arms and was able to return to her job as a window clerk at the post office. After the accident, she decided to start quilting. “Quilting consists of taking small pieces of fabric or clothing and turning them into something warm, beautiful and comforting,” Crouse said. “After my accident, my passion of quilting helped me realize that even though parts of me were broken, scarred and falling apart, my life was still beautiful.”

By March 2020, Crouse had been unable to continue her passion for over a year due to the pinched nerve. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, the mission to make face masks gave her the drive she needed to overcome her injury. Crouse donated her first batch of masks to a local nursing home, then contacted her local health department, finding out that they were accepting donations to distribute masks to health care and other essential workers. To date, Crouse has made over 1,200 masks, and is still hard at work making more.

Healing with Help from the APWU Community

Following her car accident, Crouse relied on the help of her APWU brothers and sisters in her healing process. In a remarkable show of solidarity, her fellow members banded together to share their leave hours, and held a benefit picnic that allowed her to purchase a wheelchair-accessible vehicle. Additionally, her local union was crucial in getting a wheelchair ramp installed at the post office so she could return to her job. “I could not believe that there were so many coworkers willing to donate an hour, a day, or a week of their own, personal vacation time to me,” Crouse says.

“With their generosity I was able to collect a paycheck, keep my health insurance, make my mortgage payment and eventually enjoy my life of retirement.” Crouse is still a full dues paying APWU member, having retired from the Postal Service in 2003. “It’s a community of people that just care for each other and watch out for each other,” Crouse says of the APWU. Making masks was one way Crouse was able to pay these good deeds forward. “I was finally able to give back in this time of need. I feel very blessed and grateful to help others stay safe.”

“Vicky’s inspiring work making and donating over a thousand masks is just one of the many stories of APWU members helping their communities during this time of pandemic,” said President Dimondstein. “Thank you to Vicky and to the many other APWU members doing what they can to serve and strengthen their community.”

Share your story with us!

If you have a story of you or a fellow APWU member helping their community during the pandemic, we would love to share it on apwu.org and in future issues of the American Postal Worker! Send your story and any photos to communications@apwu.org.

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