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Unsung Heroes: ‘It’s a way of doing something to help,’ says Napa resident who has hand-sewn more than 500 masks during coronavirus pandemic
Unsung Heroes

Unsung Heroes: ‘It’s a way of doing something to help,’ says Napa resident who has hand-sewn more than 500 masks during coronavirus pandemic

From the Napa County's Unsung Heroes: Profiling ordinary people doing extraordinary things during the coronavirus pandemic series

Editor’s note: This is part of an occasional series profiling ordinary people doing extraordinary things in this time of crisis. The series is sponsored by the Napa Valley Vintners. If you have a suggestion for a person to profile, email online@napanews.com.

When Sharon Lampton, 73, first heard about the COVID-19 pandemic, she was “absolutely panicked.”

As a lover of the arts, a regular attendee at concerts and theater, and a member of multiple local craft clubs, Lampton could no longer do the activities that brought her joy and community, and there was no certainty around if or when she’d ever be able to again.

Unsung Heroes

“Life is on hold. I don’t know what’s coming in the future, and a lot of the things I did in the past are no longer viable,” she said. “It made me think about whether those things are ever going to happen, or if they do, if I’ll even want to go.”

Lampton needed a distraction, so she turned to a favorite childhood pastime: sewing.

The lifelong seamstress and member of the Napa Valley Quilters thought had a closet full of fabrics at the ready, and she decided to make face coverings that would be distributed at the Napa Farmer’s Market.

“It gave me something else to think about. I listen to music while sewing, and it just takes my mind off of everything going on,” she said.

Lampton’s first batch of 15 face coverings were “gone in minutes” at the April 11 market, she says. Each was made of a fruit- or vegetable-themed fabric and could be tied around the head to keep it secure.

Using ties, Lampton says, was more time consuming, but she’s now developed a “new method” using elastic loops instead, so she’s able to crank out as many as 100 masks per week.

Since May 1, Lampton says she’s used 196 yards of fabric and at least 20 yards of elastic to make 504 face coverings.

“It’s a way of doing something to help. Everybody I know wants to do something because we have all this time on our hands now, and you might as well be doing something,” Lampton said of her motivation.

She’s quick to point out almost every quilter she knows is helping to sew masks, including many from the local quilting guild. Lampton works part time at Broadway Quilts in Sonoma, and she’s been told by her supervisors there that the store has seen a surge in demand in patrons looking to buy fabric exclusively for protective gear.

But Lampton, also a gardener, cares deeply about the farmer’s market, which lost a significant portion of its revenue when craft vendors weren’t deemed essential under the shelter-in-place mandate and traffic decreased overall. The opportunity to provide something that could generate some donation money while putting protective gear into the hands of those who might not have it appealed to Lampton.

“The importance of fresh vegetable and fruit is something I totally support and believe in. If small farmers go away, we will be in big trouble in this country, and it’s far superior to factory farms and meatpacking plants,” she said.

As of May 16, the farmer’s market had received $2,921 donations for Lampton’s masks.

Though not a lifelong Napan herself, Lampton has lived here since 1999, when she decided to retire and “do all the things she couldn’t do” working a high-stress job as a computer consultant.

Today, she considers Napa home and recalls how the city’s rallied together in moments of crisis over recent years. Her recently remodeled kitchen was ravaged by the 2014 earthquake, for example, but her neighbors readily supported her, she says.

Her experience during the COVID-19 emergency has seen similar support and selflessness from her fellow Napans, she says, noting how many people have offered to run errands or pick-up groceries for her given her age.

While the sense of community is still present, it can be harder to find in a moment when individuals are being asked to keep their distance, Lampton says.

“It’s more difficult to find that because I can’t see my friends or the people I care about. We talk on the phone and email back and forth, but you aren’t really part of the same community. It will be interesting to see what it’s like in the next six months or so,” she said wistfully.

Editor’s Note: Because of the health implications of the COVID-19 virus, this article is being made available free to all online readers. If you’d like to join us in supporting the mission of local journalism, please visit napavalleyregister.com/members/join/

You may reach Carly Graf at cgraf@napanews.com; 713-817-4692; or via Twitter @carlykgraf.

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City of Napa reporter

Carly Graf covers Napa city government and community issues. She received her master’s degree from Northwestern University in Chicago. She most recently worked for a news outlet in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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