Seven members of the Asbury Seminary community, led by Paula Hisel, Assistant to the Department of Advancement, joined together to make 827 masks for the Seminary community. Staff, faculty and students have the option to receive two masks free of charge. The masks meet all Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines and consist of three layers of cotton, including a filter pocket and nosepiece.

“Our initial goal was 100 masks,” Paula said. “But at the start it took me 45 minutes to make one mask, so I was scared to lead this project. But now, I can make a mask in five minutes.”

The team of sewers, including Daisy Zhao, Fenfen Xie, Dami Adeliyi , Ciro Moraes Costa De Castro, Joy Singh, Bethany Aich, and Jess Kennedy, grew their skills as well. Several started with minimal to no sewing skills, but now, all have developed a life skill to take with them when they graduate.

“Giving our students, who otherwise might not have been able to work, an opportunity to earn an income was so important during COVID-19,” Rev. Donna Covington, Vice President of Formation, said. “They were able to create some incredible masks for all of us at the Seminary and we are very grateful for their work and service to the Seminary community.”

As the Seminary moved toward re-opening, the goal changed to 500 masks in order to meet the need. The team worked in an assembly line, some cutting, ironing, attaching elastic earpieces and sewing. Each time someone new joined the team, Paula worked with that person individually to teach them the basics of sewing and to give them an overview and hands-on demonstration of how each mask was made.

“It’s exciting to see someone who didn’t want to touch a sewing machine take pride in their work,” Paula said. “It’s not just something we did one summer at Asbury Seminary. It’s a life skill and gave me and the Seminary a chance to indirectly touch the world.”

On May 27, the team didn’t just meet their goal; they exceeded it to make 827 masks, totaling 445 hours of work.

“On behalf of the entire Seminary community, we are deeply grateful for the dedicated labors of this diverse group of students, along with the outstanding leadership provided by Paula,” Dr. Gregg Okesson, Acting Provost and member of the Coronavirus Response Team, said. “With students from China, India, Nigeria, Brazil, and the U.S. –some of them learning to sew for the first time – this team performed a critical service to the entire Seminary community. We are filled with gratitude before God for their collaboration. They’ve shown us that we are always better together!”

Paula and other members of the Seminary community donated most of the fabric, thread and supplies. As a third generation sewer, much of Paula’s supplies came from her grandmother, who passed away last year.

“This was a way for me to make peace with her passing by using her fabric and thread,” Paula said. “That would have made her proud because she would have loved this project.”

Even though the team of student workers isn’t related to her, she felt like they became the fourth generation of sewers by proxy, as together they attempted something big for God.

“To me attempting something big is saying here I am, and I trust if you’re asking me for it, I can’t fail,” she said. “It’s putting your pride and fear aside and not allowing that to be part of what you’re doing, but trusting that if he asks you to jump in, he’ll help you to swim.”

Paula worked at Asbury Seminary from 2003-2006 and has returned to work at the Seminary since 2013. She and her husband Chris live in Nicholasville with their two dogs Gordie and Gertie.