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Alabama woman sews more than 25K masks for anyone in need

Published: Oct. 19, 2021 at 6:03 PM CDT
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BULLOCK COUNTY, Ala. (WSFA) - A Bullock County woman has done something extraordinary to help combat the scourge of the COVID-19 pandemic. You’ve probably never heard Jessie Penn’s name before, but you need to know what she’s done.

Penn has spent the last 17 months of the pandemic sewing masking for anyone in need. In fact, she’s made more than 25,000 of them!

Jessie Penn took her husband's suggestion and ran with it; 25,000 masks in 17 months!
Jessie Penn took her husband's suggestion and ran with it; 25,000 masks in 17 months!(Source: WSFA 12 News)

“They were talking about a shortage of masks,” she said.

It all started with a suggestion from her husband more than a year and a half ago.

“So he suggested ‘why don’t you sew?’” Penn recalled.

From there she never stopped. She put the sewing pedal to the metal and started churning out facial coverings for the masses. In the process she’s burned through not one but three sewing machines. She’s now on her fourth machines, which is brand new.

This isn’t a mere hobby. “Really, it’s seven days a week. And um, but I normally turn my machine off at 8 o’clock at night,” Penn explained.

Once they’re stitched up and perfected, Penn takes them to a table at the end of her driveway with a sign announcing they’re free. Anyone can grab them.

Once Jessie Penn finishes a batch of masks, they go on a table at the end of her driveway for...
Once Jessie Penn finishes a batch of masks, they go on a table at the end of her driveway for anyone in need.(Source: WSFA 12 News)

“I just get joy out of seeing people stop, and when they stop they blow [the car horn], you know, and letting me know they’ve gotten them,” she said.

The fragrance of Jessie Penn’s goodness is apparent. Local legal assistant Chequetta Johnson has grabbed quite a few of the masks to give out to friends.

“She not only makes masks but actually caters to the desires of people,” said Johnson.

“I feel I’ve done something special, but I don’t credit myself for it,” Penn explained.

Penn estimates since she started sewing masks back in March 2020, hundreds of people have stopped by to grab one. She’s recently noticed a change, however. The bowls remain full. That could be an indicator that more and more Bullock County residents have become vaccinated or that cases have dropped.

Jessie Penn sews masks seven days a week and is now on her fourth sewing machine. She's churned...
Jessie Penn sews masks seven days a week and is now on her fourth sewing machine. She's churned out 25,000 masks in 17 months.(Source: WSFA 12 News)

“I want the pandemic to end,” said Penn.

Until the pandemic completely fades away, though, she’ll continue to do her thing; cut, sew and give away, doing her part to make her corner of the world a little healthier.

Penn says she accepts donations, which go toward buying more fabric for the masks. The largest single donation she’s gotten so far is $100 from a complete stranger.

Copyright 2021 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.