Local PECI student Backs the Build with $3,210 from homemade face masks

SEWING MACHINE Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Foundation Executive Director Shannon Coull and Picton's Cody-Rae Fowler celebrate the latter's $3,210 donation to the Foundation's Back-the-Build campaign. (Submitted photo)




About a month after the Picton Gazette told you about a local high school student Cody-Rae Fowler making protective cloth face masks for a small donation, the PECI student has made good on her pledge and donated $3,210 to the Prince Edward County Memorial Hospital Foundation’s Back the Build campaign.

Fowler, 16,  put her sewing skills and unexpected free time to do what she could to help Prince Edward County flatten the COVID-19 curve by making face masks for anyone in need during the pandemic.

“We are ‘sew inspired’ by Cody-Rae’s County-first approach to how she’s helped this community during such difficult times,” said Shannon Coull, Executive Director of the PECMH Foundation. “Her efforts have truly been a labour of love. She’s helped so many people by making them feel safe while out in public. This donation will help build our new hospital. She is investing in the future of health care delivery in Prince Edward County.”

Fowler, a Grade 11 at PECI  in Picton, has lent her sewing skills to the fight against the spread of the Novel Coronavirus.

HELPING HANDS  Picton native and PECI student Cody-Rae Fowler with her home-made masks. (Submitted Photo).

When Fowler heard there was a need for personal protective equipment, including masks in the community, she knew her passion could help the cause.

“I felt compelled to help when the news around COVID-19 began spreading throughout the community,” Fowler said. “I knew I could do something to help people feel protected during this uncertain time. Usually, I am sewing scrunchies and pet bandanas, so I knew I could sew these masks and fill a need.”

Fowler is quick to note the masks she’s sewn are not the N95 masks worn by medical staff when treating patients in hospitals. The kind made by Fowler are the type that have been recommended by health care officials, as something that can be used, alongside physical distancing, to prevent the spread of the virus.

Fowler loves to sew and currently operates Scrunchie and Go, an online shop on Facebook where she designs, sews and sells hair scrunchies, pet accessories and other handmade items.

Since starting her face mask making journey on March 27, Fowler has lost count of the number of masks she has sewn but estimates she’s created between 1,500 and 1,750. 

When she’s wasn’t working a shift at Mark’s Chip Truck, Fowler was set up at her grandmother’s kitchen table with Netflix streaming in the background, sewing for anywhere between eight and 12 hours at a time.

Each mask took her between five to seven minutes to sew. At times she enlisted help of her nanny Betty Branscombe and mother Barb Fowler to help her with cutting fabric or ironing the masks. 

On April 19 Fowler, with the help of her family, produced 90 masks which was her biggest yield in one day so far!

“They’re the best!” Fowler expressed, referring to her family.

She sold each mask for $3.00 and has only recovered costs of about $330 with the rest of Fowler’s proceeds of $3,210 being donated to Back the Build.

“My mom and grandmother work at PECMH so I have a personal connection to our hospital. At first I thought I might purchase $3,000 in gift cards to hand out to staff, but then I thought about how much a new hospital is needed in the County, and how a new hospital will change the face of the County,” said Fowler. “If you live in Cressy, you’re a 30-minute drive to Picton and an additional 30 minutes to Belleville if you need a hospital. It’s important to have a good hospital close to home, and I want to help keep one in the County.”

Fowler learned to sew from her nanny who works in the housekeeping department at PECMH. 

“My nanny is my best friend,” Fowler said, and has been staying with her grandmother during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Looking ahead, Fowler is eager to get back to business as usual and focus her effort on sewing scrunchies again, when she isn’t working on chemistry homework while physically distancing.

“I love to sew, and I want to be a nurse one day,” Fowler stated. “Giving back to the community that raised me seems so simple. Donating these proceeds to a hospital that I may work in one day just feels right.”

PECMH Foundation are beyond appreciative of any donations they receive, especially during this pandemic.

“We’re so proud of Cody-Rae. She is kind-hearted and is always putting people first,” said Coull. “It’s nice to see her selflessly giving back to our community hospital during this unsettling time. Cody-Rae embodies the true spirit of philanthropy! Knowing Cody-Rae, in a few years’ time, she will be walking through the doors of our new hospital as a nursing graduate, going to work on the front lines for our hospital.”