The disruptions in routine as a result of the continuing COVID-19 pandemic have a lot of people — adults and children alike — on edge, since no one really knows what will happen as schools and businesses begin to open. Samantha Rubenstein is a second-year Girl Scout from Troop 30087 who’s beginning fifth grade at Clara Barton Elementary School in Cherry Hill.
She’s overcome the frustrations of quarantine, exercised her creative muscles, and come up with a way to ease the anxieties of her fellow students while helping protect essential workers: custom-made mask bands, with buttons, that make wearing masks for long periods feel less uncomfortable.
“Actually, I thought about it at school,” Samantha admitted. “I felt that if I was going to be there for six hours a day, it would be way more comfortable with masks if they were easier to wear.”
Samantha’s mom, Dana, added that thinking about how to craft a better mask grew out of the uncertainty of how school would begin this year, and her daughter’s idea became a concrete way to ease the emotional burden for her worried classmates.
So, she went to work, using, of all things, a loom used to make potholders, weaving the bands straight from the material she holds in her hands. Samantha scours yard sales as well as Amazon to find the right color and size of the material and the buttons.
“You weave the material on the loom, then tie up the end and then I sew the buttons on,” she said of the process.
The end product includes buttons on each end of the band, so the ear hooks of a traditional mask can be attached.
“It just takes me about five minutes to make one,” Samantha revealed. “The most I made was 18 in one day. When I first started making them, I started also thinking about nurses, and I’ve gotten a few orders from nurses since.”
So far, Samantha’s has sent her mask bands to places as far as California, Maryland and Florida, and fulfilled local requests from the Delaware Valley.
She started out selling the bands to friends and family for $2 each and expanded her enterprise by advertising. Samantha originally hoped to earn just $100 to donate to the Cherry Hill Food Pantry and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), but she’s racked up more than $800 to date, en route to her new goal of $1,000.
“Now that the masks have been so popular, I can even do this through the holidays. I want to keep going as long as I can help. Nothing’s gonna stop me,” she crowed.
Samantha happily added that during a call with a fundraising representative from CHOP earlier in the week, she learned her donation has already helped kids who contracted COVID.
“It’s mind blowing how well this project has gone so far. I’m just trying to spread some love with each one I make,” she said.
Anyone interested in purchasing a mask band can do so in several ways — by emailing Dana Rubenstein at firstname.lastname@example.org, or through her Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/dana.rubenstein.14. Anyone who wants to make an in-person purchase will donate $2 for each mask band.