Big Spring grad and Shippensburg University student Rebecca Fickel is using her entrepreneurial spirit and self-taught sewing skills to find a new way to help the community during the current health crisis.

The 19-year-old college freshman has started a mask-making nonprofit from her dorm room, with all proceeds from her masks going to the PAW Packs Program, which helps feed students in the Big Spring School District over the weekend.

“When the coronavirus started and they started to shut down the schools, kids that were depending on school lunches and things provided by the school, they weren’t able to have access to that food anymore,” Fickel said Friday. “[PAW Packs] posted that the number of kids that they needed to feed increased a ton. So, they were looking for financial donations.”

As of Friday, Fickel has made 440 cloth masks and raised more than $2,000.

“I have a job, I am still working almost full time,” she continued. “I am not really in need of any of the money I’m bringing in from these masks, so I decided to donate it to PAW Packs just so their need was alleviated a little bit and just so the kids in the community were able to still get fed.”

Fickel’s face mask foray began when a family friend that knew she could sew messaged her to make some masks for her and her coworkers.

“I was like, ‘Absolutely, I am not sure if I know how, but I can try,’” Fickel recalled. “I was already in Walmart when she called me and I got my materials, and that night I made some for her.” 

She posted the results on her Facebook page and thought that would be the end of it, but she was wrong.

“I didn’t expect anything out of it and I didn’t really expect people to want any. I got a whole bunch of comments and orders saying, ‘Would you be able to make masks for me?’ and it just sort of took off from there. I just started making tons of masks,” Fickel said. “It’s super crazy how many orders I have done. It just blows my mind.”

Headbands to face masks

Fickel’s sewing skills started as a way to make a fashion statement, making her own headbands, which she wore almost every day during high school.

“Early in high school, I wore headbands all the time. I don’t know what got it started. It got to the point where if I wasn’t wearing one, my friends were like: ‘Oh no, what’s wrong,’” Fickel said with a laugh. “It got to the point where I was wearing the same ones and buying them, so I wanted to make them myself.” 

Fickel watched a sewing tutorial on YouTube and went to work, getting a wide variety of fabrics and letting her ingenuity and artistry come to life.

She enjoyed it and started making them for others, creating an Instagram account to show off her wares and sell them.

When she is not making face masks or headbands, Fickel spends much of her time working at Sheetz, and is currently enrolled in SU’s business college, where she is majoring in marketing and management. 

So far, she has been putting those studies to good use.

“I have always been passionate about helping others. That is something that is very close to my heart. I think it is important to give back with whatever resources you have. It just felt right,” Fickel noted. “Right now with the coronavirus going on, it’s creating a lot of isolation physically, but I have seen communities come together in a ton of ways that are really unique. It was evident in our community that there is a need and I was just happy to help out.” 

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