Fifth-grader uses hobby to help others


Fifth-grader Caroline Holtslander of Rome likes crafting, and got a sewing machine as a 2018 Christmas gift.

She has been busy lately applying those interests during the COVID-19 pandemic, making over 400 safety masks of cotton fabric for use by various people.

Caroline said some have been provided for flight attendants “because my mom is a flight attendant,” some for airline pilots “because my dad is a pilot,” and others for local nursing homes.

Some also have been sold, including larger batches for individual flight attendants as well as for area friends and family, added her mom Chantra Destito. She is an American Airlines flight attendant currently on a leave of absence and Caroline’s father is an American Airlines pilot. Her husband, Caroline’s step-dad, is a teacher in the Utica school district.

For 11-year-old Caroline, a Ridge Mills Elementary School student, the mask-making project began in mid-March.

She said her mom got the idea after seeing information online about masks being made due to COVID-19 and “we started making them after that.”

Chantra Destito noted she saw a YouTube video plus she heard from a flight attendant friend who had started making masks, and she told her daughter “we can do this.”

Destito said they have gotten materials for the masks from friends and relatives in various U.S. locations, offsetting some local store closures and supply shortages due to COVID-19. The masks, made from various cotton fabric, initially included using headband material for attaching them to heads but then started using yarn, followed by elastic.

For the mask-making process, explained Caroline, “I sew them together” while her mom works on the elastic and the wire nose-fitting pieces plus cutting out fabric. For each mask, Caroline said “I sew it 10 times” into the mask shape while her mom “sews it three more times for the elastic and nose pieces.”

Caroline observed “it’s rewarding, but it’s very hard,” adding “it takes a half-hour per mask” and “we do them in batches.”

Of the COVID-19 situation, Caroline said she will be very excited “for this to be over” so she can get started on another project. She plans to be “making tie-die shirts after this,” and said she previously had a “Dangles by Caroline” project including making earrings and keychains for sale at craft fairs.

Also commenting that one of her favorite hobbies is painting, Caroline concluded “I like crafts.”


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