Stories of independence, success, and impact
Brian is a courtesy clerk at Publix and loves helping his customers.

Paul Helps People Breathe Easy

June 2020

Paul has always been creative. It runs in his family – both of his parents were ‘makers,’ and they passed that skill to Paul and his sister, Paula. Paul has a talent for needlepoint, while Paula is a professional photographer who also enjoys knitting, crocheting, and sewing. They like crafting together and love to go to the fabric store together to select different fabrics for their various projects.

When the Coronavirus pandemic began, they decided to work together to make masks. “It started off just making masks for the immediate family,” says Paula. “Then from there it sort of spring-boarded – I got requests for masks from a couple of small businesses and then saw on social media multiple calls for masks, so we started making masks to give away to people who needed them.”

It’s a team effort. Paul helps by pre-washing the fabric and then irons it, and Paula cuts and sews the pieces together. While she’s sewing, Paul is busy cutting the elastic to the right length. Once the mask is assembled, Paul pinks the edges and threads the elastic.

Paul says that he enjoys the entire process of making masks, especially threading the elastic, but beams with pride when he says, “The best part is seeing the finished product!” It’s knowing that he is helping someone to stay safe that gives him a sense of purpose.

While they are selling their masks and other handmade items in their Etsy shop, aptly named HandmaidenSAV, the duo is always willing to donate masks to those who need them but might not able to purchase them. Just one example of their generosity: once they became aware through Instagram that the Paiute Tribe, from Pyramid Lake in Nevada, needed masks, Paul and Paula got to work. Over the past several weeks, they’ve sent them three separate shipments of 2-3 dozen masks each, all at no cost to the Tribe.

Paula hopes that even after the virus passes, the Etsy shop will be an ongoing opportunity for Paul to both be creative and to earn a modest income. The skills he has, bolstered from working for years in the Specialized Assembly program at EmployAbility, will serve him well as a creative entrepreneur.

As for Paul, he’s looking forward to joining the Community Access Group (CAG) program once the EmployAbility campus re-opens. Focused on improving his health and keeping active, he’s excited to be able to see his friends again, but also eager to get out in the community and try some new things.

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