Wallace State employee making masks to help others, raise funds for Relay For Life  

Wallace State Community College employee Debra Young is sewing face masks and raising funds for the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life of Cullman County.  

HANCEVILLE, Ala. – A Wallace State Community College employee is using her sewing skills to help others and support a good cause at the same time. Debra Young, a nine-year survivor of breast cancer, is making masks as a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life. Young has been a member of every Wallace State Relay For Life team since around 2009.

Her own battle with cancer is not her single experience with the disease. She’s lost several loved ones to the disease, including her father and a dear friend for whom she provided care. As a grandmother, she’s also interested in helping researchers find a cure for the disease so that those future generations never have to hear that word.

“I’m tired of hearing the word cancer,” she said.

When the Covid-19 pandemic reared its head, Young, of Hanceville, said she was concerned about her coworkers and community and wanted to do something that would help both people who need to protect themselves from the disease and Relay For Life.

“I saw a need,” she said. “I thought I could help both individuals and Relay For Life at the same time.”

She did hit a snag or two when she started making masks though.

It had been a while since she’d used her sewing machine, and when she took it out of storage to start sewing it would not start. She called her mother, Louise Evans – a caregiver for Young’s father – and after trying all the tricks they knew to try and get it started her mom offered up her 50-year-old New Home machine, which started right up.

Evans started helping her daughter with the masks, ironing the creases into the masks and ties and inspecting the finished products. “She’s my quality control,” Young said.

The masks are made of 100 percent cotton with two sets of ties rather than loops around the ears. The patterns change bi-weekly. There’s a wire at the top to fit to the wearer’s nose and a pocket in which to insert a filter of some sort.

“The CDC is recommending using a coffee filter or layering paper towels,” Young said, adding she wanted to help educate others on the best practices for using masks. “In every bag of masks, I put a piece of paper in there that lists the dos and don’ts of using a mask. To wash them, they say to put them in a pillowcase or a lingerie bag to keep the ties from twisting around other clothing in the wash.”

The masks are $5 each and she’s sold 75 masks to date. She has shipped them as far away as Michigan and Illinois. She accepts payments as tax deductible donations through her personal Relay For Life page.

She is still taking orders through her Facebook page or she can be reached at young252544@gmail.com.

Wallace State’s Relay For Life team is the official #GoldTogether team for Relay For Life of Cullman County, meaning all funds raised with go toward research, education and prevention efforts for Childhood Cancer. The team is also selling shirts for $18 each based on their theme of “Bring the Hammer Down on Cancer.”