April 3, 2020 at 11:09 a.m.

Arts Coordinator puts her sewing talent to work for fellow employees

Arts Coordinator puts her sewing talent to work for fellow employees
Arts Coordinator puts her sewing talent to work for fellow employees

Around the world right now, there is a scramble for safety masks for anyone on the front lines of the battle against COVD-19.

Right here at home, an employee at the MPower Wellness Center in Chisago City took it into her own hands, literally, to help in that fight.

Nicole Christensen, 31, who lives in Centerville, but has worked at the Chisago City campus for a year and a half, recently sewed 25 dou

ble-layered cotton masks for her co-workers. She has about 20 more to do to equip employees throughout the wellness center and Parmly on the Lake Senior Living who don’t have to come in contact with residents.

The employees that are in contact with the senior living population, who are at the highest risk with COVID-19, still need N95 filtered masks.

But, Christensen’s work is vital for the rest of the employees who are now required to wear a mask. New guidelines that came out  Thursday, March 26 made the masks a necessity. Parmly on the Lake Director Ryan Onstad put a call out to his employees for solutions. He had no idea Christensen was a talented seamstress and had a large bin of donated fabric.
Christensen is typically the Studios of Art Coordinator and Wellness Specialist at the MPower Wellness Center. Her regular activities prior to the outbreak were teaching arts and crafts to both community members and residents on occasion. She also did personal training and teaches fitness classes like Aqua Bootcamp.

But, with the Wellness Center shut down, her daily duties have changed dramatically. “I help out at the front desk, checking our staff in by taking their temp etc., so we can keep the nurses on the floor with the residents. I also help out our Therapeutic Rec group as much as I can and report to our director, who’s got plenty of projects for me to work on throughout our facility!”

After she let her director know that she could sew masks for the staff that’s not in contact with residents, she got to work.

“I checked a few blogs, read the standards and tried a few different versions and had my husband, Brian, try them out until I settled on the ones I am making,” she explained.
Christensen’s sewing hobby goes back to her junior high days. She took sewing twice at Century Junior High in Forest Lake and as a substitute teacher a few years ago, she taught home ec classes and part of the class was teaching the skill to younger kids. “I fell back in love with sewing then and have done it off and on ever since,” she said. “I’ve always loved creating. My dad’s side is very much into making things.”

The masks, which take about 20 minutes each to complete, with the 17-inch straps taking the longest, are all sewn using her trusty Singer sewing machine. She sews the straps because in her research, she found that elastic can really bother the ears when the masks are worn all day. It also helps that masks that are tied in the back instead of hooked around the ears have less need for the nose piece or pipe cleaner.

With her new duties of checking employees in, she brought her bin of fabric to the front and had each employee pick out which one they wanted her to use, so there’s even a level of customization to the masks. “They pick out the fabric and put their names on it, and then I take it home and make them. It’s a great way to have a little fun and show some personality under the circumstances,” Christensen said.

The extra time Christensen has put in at home has been especially impressive, given the fact that she has two young daughters, Zoey and Coraleigh, to take care of.

But, she doesn’t want to just stop at the masks for employees who aren’t in contact with residents. She is also working on a cotton mask that will hold the filtered N95 safety device so the people who are working with the residents every day also have the option of comfort and personality.

“Everyone can make a difference. Whether that is smiling at a stranger, holding a door, giving a compliment, staying home or curing COVID-19,” Christensen opined. “The world can be so negative, so if you want to make the biggest difference, bring joy to where you go or what you do. I learn this everyday from my daughter who has Down Syndrome. Imagine a world of smiling, happy,  and joyous people. What a difference that would make in this world! Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, can at least do that.”

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