This post appeared as a guest article on Sixteen:Nine.
Starting a new job is often overwhelming, and doing so just as a pandemic transforms daily life across the globe creates a whole new set of challenges. But I count myself blessed to be where I am, at this time, despite everything going on. Let me tell you why.
The folks here at SNA Displays have a few core values we like to promote, both to our clients and with each other. We have an internal reward system that we use to recognize each other, which we tag with values like #HaveFun, #DoWhatYouDoBest, #TotalProjectSatisfaction, and #NeverStopLearning, to name a few. But the most notable value right now is #PeopleFirst, and few individuals exemplify that motto better than one of our own, Danielle Dassaro.
By day, Danielle is a project assistant at our ImageCare office in Knoxville, Tennessee. By night, she’s a superhero. Only instead of wearing a mask, she’s making them for others to wear.
“I have a daughter who is immune-compromised, so I have always done needs-based sewing, and masks are a big need. I started sewing these masks around the middle of March, knowing they were going to become a great need.”
Of course, every superhero needs a good team, and Danielle has that in her four daughters. Her oldest helps her sew, while another keeps the team organized by managing lists and printing shipping labels. The youngest (a two-year-old) digs through the fabric and throws it everywhere. After all, what superhero team doesn’t have a mischievous rogue in its midst?
Together, Danielle’s family team has sewn over 700 masks and sent them to hospitals in New York City, New Jersey, and their hometown of Knoxville. Many masks are also going to friends, family, and other health professionals and essential workers to keep them protected.
Danielle learned to sew around age 8 and has continued to sew and quilt her entire life. When one of her daughters presented with a medical issue at the age of 3, Danielle applied her skills to helping others and began to sew pads for children with feeding tubes. She also converted backpacks to allow children to carry their pumps around with them. “Unfortunately, insurance never covered these items, so there was a great need for them in the special-needs community.”
“My grandmother taught me to sew,” Danielle said. “She grew up during the Great Depression and sewing was a skill she knew she could always rely on. She passed this down to her children and grandchildren, and we in turn pass it down to our children.”
Danielle has several mask patterns in her library, but after much trial and error, she found the pattern hosted by Sweet Red Poppy to be the best. She altered it to her own specifications to allow her to sew in filtration.
I was recently privy to a conversation between my company’s leadership about an upcoming donation of face masks SNA Displays is making to the New York Police Department. As of this week, almost 20% – about 7,000 – of NYPD uniformed officers are out sick and almost 2,500 had confirmed cases of the virus. The donation of 2,000 masks is modest relative to the need, but I’m sure every little bit we can do for our community helps.
However, the focus of the conversation quickly shifted to Danielle and how her creativity and generosity is inspiring during this time.
“Danielle is amazing and we’re all so proud of her,” said Dennis Hickey, president of SNA Displays. “I’m humbled by how she’s really gone above and beyond and sets the standard for our People First motto.”
Danielle also works with Project Breathe Easy and Masks for Medicine to help get masks out to those who need them.
“Many have tried to offer money for the masks,” Danielle said, “but I have always stood firm on being able to ‘pay it forward.’ Masks are not something people should profit off of during a time of uncertainty, tragedy, and loss. I am fortunate enough to work for a company that supports its employees in every way, even donating towards materials, and that puts our safety first. I may not be able to mask everyone, but we are doing our best to do our part.”
UPDATE: Danielle was recognized for her generosity and mask-making prowess by WATE6 in Knoxville. Watch the clip on ABC’s Knoxville affiliate WATE6 here.