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Campus Community’s Mask Project Ensures Fellow Comets Are Covered

Marita Yancey, director of employee benefits and wellness in the Office of Human Resources at UT Dallas, created mask kits for other volunteers to sew.

Many University of Texas at Dallas employees have continued reporting to campus to maintain essential functions, from housing and dining to police and facilities management.

In response to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines recommending wearing a cloth face covering in public settings, as well as the initial shortage of face masks available for purchase, the University community quickly rallied to outfit fellow Comets.

The goal? To provide two reusable, washable face coverings to each employee who regularly reported to campus to perform essential job duties.

Initial requests were received from approximately 400 employees. More than 1,200 cloth face coverings have been distributed.

Debra Greszler, a member of Staff Council and a manager in the Office of Information Technology, volunteered to lead the effort after spending a couple of weekends making cloth face coverings for family members.

“In my 18 years with UTD, this experience will forever be a highlight of being a member of this wonderful community,” Greszler said. “It truly is the UTD spirit in action, and I am humbled by the volunteers’ giving nature. I have deep gratitude for everyone who has participated in this effort.”

The community quickly answered the call for volunteers in early April.

Staff, faculty, students, parents and grandparents of students and employees, UT Dallas alumni, and University retirees joined the effort. Some were learning to sew; others were more experienced. They also donated supplies: fabric, sewing machines, thread, pipe cleaners and elastic.

“In my 18 years with UTD, this experience will forever be a highlight of being a member of this wonderful community. It truly is the UTD spirit in action, and I am humbled by the volunteers’ giving nature. I have deep gratitude for everyone who has participated in this effort.”

Debra Greszler, a manager in the Office of Information Technology who led the ‘Make a Mask’ project

Biochemistry senior Mabel Melody Thai aims to work in the medical field after graduation. A novice sewer, she made masks during her free time between online classes.

“When COVID-19 placed a strain on both health care workers and essential employees, I was lucky to be safe at home but also upset and frustrated that I couldn’t get out there and help in the health care field,” she said. “Though I was unable to provide help in emergency services, I came across UTD’s ‘Make a Mask’ project online and thought, ‘I could learn how to sew!’ I’m by no means experienced, and things went slowly at first, but with every mask completed, it felt like tangible proof that every effort helps.”

These 20 masks were made by volunteer Rebeka Stafford, director of finance operations in the Central Business Office.

In addition to essential employees, the project provided masks to students in the Undergraduate Success Scholars program, volunteers with the Comet Cupboard food pantry and the employees who filled celebration packages for graduates.

The group also fulfilled requests from employees who needed to be on campus occasionally for essential job duties.

Additional donated face coverings, including no-sew masks, were distributed to students still living on campus.

“We were in desperate need of face coverings because about 75% of University Housing staff serve as essential employees,” said Matt Grief, associate vice president for student affairs. “This mask program has been a wonderful blessing. We’ve been handing out packages, performing work requests, cleaning, and handling student needs, and having the masks helps our staff feel safer.”

The effort has required cross-campus coordination, Greszler said. Staff members from Risk Management and Environmental Health & Safety, Emergency Management and Continuity Planning, the UT Dallas Police Department, and the offices of Legal Affairs, Human Resources and Communications have provided support.

The UT Dallas Police Department has assisted in safely receiving donations, distributing masks, and maintaining the intake and pickup of supplies. Crime prevention officer David Spigelmyer said the project is an opportunity to show the University community that people care.

“When the call goes out, no matter who needs help, our Comet community will always step up and do the right thing,” Spigelmyer said. “Hopefully our students will learn from this example and carry the torch forward when they graduate.”

Media Contact: The Office of Media Relations, UT Dallas, (972) 883-2155, [email protected].

Tagged: COVID-19