HOLTS SUMMIT - Three women have made more than 1,000 masks for essential workers, patients and people at high risk across Mid-Missouri.
Beverly Luetkemeyer wanted to help a friend on staff at Hermann Area District Hospital, where masks were running low. Luetkemeyer has a long history with sewing and fabrics.
"I started sewing at age four," Luetkemeyer said. "My grandmother was a tailor, and as soon as she thought I wouldn't run over my finger with a needle, she started teaching me how to sew."
Luetkemeyer decided to reach out to her friend, Rachel Bruemmer, and her friend's mother, Annette Bruemmer, for extra help.
With lots of available fabric and supplies, the three formed a mask-making team.
"We're like the mighty three, working our little fingers off," she said.
The three have since made masks for the Jefferson City Police Department, nurses at St. Mary's Hospital, the Jefferson City Medical Group, local Walmart employees, several military people, MU and Parkside Manor in Columbia.
"If they want one and are willing to wear one and are willing to protect others by wearing a mask, I want them to have one," Luetkemeyer said.
The masks are washable, reusable, and come with pockets to put filters in or to protect N95 masks longer.
For each of these women, making masks means something even bigger than helping those in need.
Luetkemeyer has four autoimmune disorders.
"I am reluctant to go out in public at all right now, especially in a shopping situation," she said.
Rachel is a cancer survivor.
"I know what that's like to live with damaged lungs, so that's another one of my driving reasons to do this," she said.
Annette is a senior citizen.
"Your immune system sort of wears down as you get older, so I need to protect myself," she said.
Annette said it makes no difference to them if they're helping a stranger, friend, or family member.
"If we can prevent one person from becoming very ill or dying, that would be the reward of doing this whole process," she said.
Being at risk of COVID-19 has not stopped any of these women from doing what they can to help others.
"It doesn't hurt to wear a mask," Rachel said. "It doesn't hurt you. But when you can't breathe, that level of pain is like none other."