Allison Hayes work in student affairs at a university in Indiana. At the time of her interview, she has made over 80 masks for her friends and family members. Allison naturally enjoys crafts of all kinds and spends her other time with her dog and working out daily.
In Episode #3 of Everyday Heroes: A COVID-19 Podcast, we meet Allison Hayes, who works on a college campus in Indiana. She talks about making masks and the strategies she's using to help others during the pandemic. Here's a link to her mask-making tutorial: https://vimeo.com/443991987.
“Memories heal the living. We pray for the living.”
Angela: May 17, 2020 is the day after former President Barack Obama gave two virtual commencement speeches. He said, “If we’re going to save the environment and defeat future pandemics, then we’re going to have to do it together. So be alive to one another’s struggles. Stand up for one another’s rights.” At this time, the total number of deaths due to COVID-19 in the United States was just over 91,000. This is the context for our third episode of Everyday Heroes, a conversation with Allison Hayes, who is responsible for student conduct and integrity on a college campus in Indiana. She also has made over 80 protective masks for friends and family.
Angela: I'm Angela Rothermel, and I’m here to speak with Allison Hayes today regarding some of her actions that she's taken during this unprecedented time. I'd like to welcome Allison Hayes. Hi, Allison.
Angela: How are you today?
Allison: Good. I got a little nap today, so that was good.
Angela: Very good. Very good. So, tell us a little bit about your life before this pandemic, and how it changed after.
Allison: I work on a college campus here in Indiana, and so my day consisted of: get up, go to work, meet with students, you know, deal with whatever was happening. I work in student conduct and integrity. So I meet with students who have violated the code of conduct, behaviorly most of the time, but sometimes academically. Meet with them, talk about what their actions meant, you know, all that kind of stuff. Go to the gym, come home, play with my dog, eat dinner. That was pretty much my day.
Allison: I think it was like March 13th, sometime around there. They had been saying like, if you want to work from home, let us know. You can put in the paperwork through HR, you know. But like I was kind of hesitating on that because I live alone. I don't have anybody to take care of. I don't have anybody that relies on me. So I was kind of holding off because I didn't want them to say, “Oh, we've reached the limit of people that we can allow,” and have somebody else really need that. And so, I remember putting like May 1st like… because you had to put a return date. I remember putting May 1st, and I was like, surely we’ll be back before then. J K, no we're not.
Allison: Graduation’s canceled, you know, in person graduation. They just did a virtual commencement yesterday. But you know, all those things that we had planned were gone. Well, then that meant that we didn't have as many student conduct cases as we would normally have, because a lot of them come from our students living in the residence halls, as you all can imagine, I'm sure. And so, my caseload went down pretty considerably. I still had a few students that I met with. But I shifted to a lot of special projects, a lot of just working on things here and there. And then, the stuff started coming out about, “you need to wear a mask, you need to wear a mask”. And I was like, well, I know how to sew. I have my grandmother's 1960’s sewing machine.
Allison: I've probably made in the neighborhood of about 80 masks. I just sent some off to Canada the other day. A friend of mine in Canada needed some. She and her partner did. I've made them for family back in Oklahoma, lots of friends here in Indiana, several of my coworkers even. I bought some more rounds of fabric, and I'm not doing it as a “these masks are this amount of money”. Like, if you want to pay me, great, whatever you can pay me. I grew up in the Bible belt, so I call it love offering style. So if you can pay something, great. If not, have a mask. I don't care.
Angela: Thank you for doing that.
Allison: I didn't come up with my own mask pattern. I stole one from online, but I saw some improvements that I thought worked better for me, so I made them, and that's where that video tutorial came from.
Angela: What is the link for that tutorial?
Allison: The mask tutorial that I use is the “Sarah Maker mask, with filter”, if you just Google that. I made a few modifications, because I like to make modifications. But she did that, and then I created that video. One of my coworkers, that I went to grad school with actually, emailed me and said, “So, hey, you want to make a mask tutorial?” And I was like, “Really would rather not.” She was like, “How about you do it?” I said, “Okay.”
Angela: What has this experience taught you, about yourself and about what we're all going through?
Allison: I'm someone that struggles with mental health. I have several, multiple diagnoses, as many of us do these days.
Allison: And so, I did pretty well those first, like probably a month or so. I was having a lot of cocktail hours with my friends, you know, people that I maybe hadn't even talked to in a while, other than like a random post, or texts here and there. But I was like, “Well, shoot, we're all home. We all have free time. Let's hang out.” And then I kind of got busy with some other stuff, and that kind of dropped off. And then I had some really bad days. I'm a pretty extroverted extrovert, as all my friends say. And so, that having that… Not having that human contact has really been tough. Try and, you know, keep that distance.
Allison: I'm a big hugger. Not being able to give my friends hugs, my family hugs, you know, just… has been really tough. So I think it's a lot of it is just… taking one day at a time, and not trying to get stuck in your feelings. If you're having a bad day, try to fix it, you know, try to change things up. Like today, I was not having a great day, but I took a nap. I felt a little bit better. I got some stuff, kind of knocked off my “to do” list, which I, kind of, have not done. I had a big win: I replaced the motor on my car window. That was a really big win. Like, I felt really good about myself, after that. So it's… I think a lot of it is just kind of trying to find the small wins and taking them where you can get them.
Angela: Are people in your community doing a great job with handling all of this, and what have you been hearing from people in your community, or your circle?
Allison: I have a lot of friends that are… that have kids at home, and are kind of trying to manage some of those aspects. I have a lot of friends in the healthcare industry. Or that… their partners or spouses, or whoever, also work in healthcare industry. So a lot of that. I have a lot of friends with newborn babies, and I just feel so much for them, because there's nothing that, you know, new parents want more than, “Hey, come over and hold my baby so I don't have to, for just a little bit, so that I can get a shower.” Well that's not a possibility now.
Allison: And so, a couple of my friends, you know, I've made them food. A couple of my friends, we've had like dates, where like, we go sit in a parking lot with our food. And like eat in our respective cars.
Angela: Yeah, that's a really good idea.
Allison: I'm just trying to do little things here and there. Our community has really done some cool things, especially some of the people that I work with at the university. They created Vigo County Helping Hands. I think that’s what it's called. But it's just people on a Facebook group, naturally kind of together, that says… You know, you post that you need something. If somebody has it, and they're willing to give it, you plan to meet up in the parking lot here, or you plan to do a porch drop, or whatever it is.
Angela: How has that helped you deal and cope with this situation?
Allison: It just kind of gives me a purpose. Because, you know, my days are usually pretty full, of like, you know, supervising my grad students, them coming in and out of my office, or me going in and out of their offices. You know, meeting with students, having, you know, walking across campus to go to a meeting. You're not going anywhere, you're not doing anything. And I think that's one of the worst things. And so if you can find that purpose, that something to do every day, especially single people like myself. I have a dog, but that's about it. And so, not having someone to take care of, or a purpose… And you know, most of my purpose is wrapped up in my job.
Allison: I’m making these masks.
Allison: You know, at one point, I had like 14 on order. Because I was in a meeting with, from, with work, and I said, “Hey, I'm making a mask, does anybody want one?” And they were like, “Yeah”. And so I had people, like…
Angela: Oh yeah, show us the mask.
Allison: So this is the mask. This is the back; it has a filter pocket.
Allison: You can put just about anything in there. Hook it over your ears. And then, another modification I made is a little metal piece.
Angela: That's awesome.
Allison: And then you just kind of expanded over your face.
Angela: What do you think next semester in the fall is going to look like for you and the students? Have they made any decisions about anything?
Allison: As of right now, our campus has a five stage plan. The Indiana state government is doing a six phase, so we're doing a five stage. You're just kind of, different words, but it's pretty mirrored to what the state is doing. You know, we're not supposed to go back to work fully until like July 6th. They're supposed to kind of have some small waves here and there. You know, I work in a large nine story building, and so like they've had the cleaning staff back in there. And fortunately, they were doing deep cleans of our office every night anyway. But what we're asking, being asked to do, is wipe down our keyboards, our desk, armchairs, and you know, if you talk with anybody, you know, try to touch your own door handle. Don't let anybody else touch your door handle. You know, those kinds of things.
Allison: As of right now, our campus is planning to come back. You know, in the fall, just as normal. Something that our campus did for the summer is, you know, students had already registered for summer classes, because that usually happens pretty early in the spring semester, if it doesn't happen in the fall semester. And so, what they did is if your class was already supposed to be online, you were going to have that, that fee of, you know, the online class fee. But if your class was supposed to be face to face, you don't have that normal class fee, even though it's online. Because again, students couldn't plan for that financially. There was no way any of us saw this coming. You know, in the wave and speed and magnitude that it did. I kind of think we all thought, “Oh, as long as it stays not in the U S, we'll be fine.
Allison: But we all know people don't stay in the U S and don't stay where they're supposed to be. So, you know, it happens. It moves. And so, as far as I know, our campus is planning on doing that, coming back full force, everything else. But I know some of our programming, and things of that nature, are going to be very different. You know, taking into account, really taking into account those room capacities, and decreasing them for social distancing.
Angela: Okay. So they're decreasing class sizes?
Allison: Not, not as far as I know right now. Because some of those classes, you know, you can be a little bit farther apart. I don't… I think they're just focusing on using the larger rooms.
Allison: When they can, because some of, you know, some of those classes, you don't have a ton of people anyway. Just due to the nature of the class.
Angela: I bet you’re excited to get back to school.
Allison: I'm a very routine person. From the way that, like, I mean the smallest things, like how I clean myself in the shower to how I put on my makeup, get dressed in the morning, the routine that I do, going to the office, all that kind of stuff. I'm a very routine person. And so, I think that's been one of the hardest things… is that I don't know when that routine is going to come back, and it's trying to figure out a new routine.
Angela: And have you been able to do that? Like, I bet you have. Right?
Allison: Yeah. I mean there's a certain extent that you have to, it's not optional anymore to, you know, to not do that. But yeah, it's certainly been a bit of a challenge to figure that out and be like, okay, so this is what we're going to do now. You know, okay, this is how this is going to work. This is how this is going to work. And a lot of people that live on routines, you don't do it consciously. It's very subconscious, but the people that are around you notice it.
Allison: And so, it's really an interesting kind of thing to… Because you don't really realize sometimes how routine you are until, until you… somebody points it out to you.
Allison: You have to kind of figure things out. You know, anything to bring sanity at this point.
Angela: Have you experienced any losses during this?
Allison: No, I've not even known anybody that had it, that had the virus or, you know, the COVID as everybody's calling it. I haven't known anybody like that. I haven't had anybody pass away. I haven't known anybody that had anybody that passed away. I've been very fortunate in that. But you know, some of these stories you hear online, or through social media, or on TV shows and stuff. It's just… it's heartbreaking. I can't fathom it. Both of my parents are older, and both have some compromised immune systems. I mean, a simple cold can take my mom out for two or three weeks.
Angela: And do you live close to your mom and dad?
Allison: I don’t. I live in Indiana. They live in Oklahoma.
Angela: Oh, okay. That's got to be pretty hard too.
Allison: Yeah, it’s 12 hours from them. But you know, my nephews… the one was supposed to graduate with his associates and move on to a different university, and the other one was supposed to graduate high school.
Allison: They're not getting that. I think they're looking at, the one graduating from high school, I think they're looking at doing a graduation in July. He went to a special school in Oklahoma that's a public charter, residential high school.
Allison: And so he lost friends. He has a girlfriend there. They, you know, they now live two hours apart, when they lived two minutes apart in the residence halls.
Allison: So it's just like, dang. We were supposed to go to Mexico at the end of May to celebrate his graduation. That's been pushed to December now.
Angela: December. Well that'll be a good break though, in December. So it might be really a blessing. Maybe? Coming from the cold? I know it’s…
Allison: Yeah. But we were looking forward to having it in May. Because we… When his brother, we did it for his brother, we did it in December, and the water was kind of cold. You know, things are a little off. So we're like, “Let's try it May. The water will be warmer, and it'll be better weather.” Just kidding.
Angela: So what else would you like us to know? What would you like people to get from this?
Allison: I think the, the quote, you know: you never know what kind of battle somebody else is fighting. I think that's more important now than ever. Just like keep in mind like, somebody else could just be having the worst day ever. I mean literally like: his family member passed away, you know, loss of a job, loss of everything else. You know, just kind of, try to be as kind as you can. It's either free or really low cost to just be kind. So just, just do it. Like, I'm not saying you have to buy somebody's coffee, the 15 cars behind you. If that's not in your budget, don't feel pressured to do it, but do what you can. I use… when I post my kind of side by sides, I have my monthly progress, or yearly progress or whatever. I use three hashtags. One is “healthy is a choice”. So, and I think we get stuck on what's healthy. Do what your body needs. If your body needs to take a nap, take a nap. If your body needs to eat junk food, maybe not every day, because that poses some other risks, but let yourself just do things.
Allison: And the other thing I say is “do what you can”. So if you can get out for a walk, great. If you can go watch your neighbor's kids in their yard so that your mom or dad can get a break, or aunt or uncle or whoever is the caretaker, can get a break for a second. Do it. It's… whatever you can do to kind of just keep on top of the situation and help each other out. Great. If it's in your budget to buy some things for your local blessing box, go for it. And the other thing is “you are your only competition”. So don't let the factors of… Whether it's social media, or just your friend groups or whatever, like, try to talk you into the fact that you're not doing a good job. Do you. Do what you can do. Don't measure yourself against others, because again, you might be in chapter 16; they're in chapter 28. There's no comparison. Not everybody's situation is the same. So just be kind and be out there for one another. Use the talents and skills and gifts that you have to do what you can to help everybody out. That's just kind of the bottom line, I think.
Angela: That's beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing with us your story. It's so important I think for all of us to hear from each other, and I loved a lot of your coping strategies, and I really loved the takeaways that you gave us with that.
Credits EVERYDAY HEROES: A COVID-19 Podcast. Featuring Angela Rothermel and guest. Produced by Michael T. Starks. Editing Services by Brian Torres, Irlend Productions Independent, LLC. All Images and Footage used with Permission & Licensing, Provided by Adobe Stock and Pixabay.com. "Say a Prayer for the Living" Music, Lyrics & Performed by Michael T. Starks. Special Thanks to Karilyn T. Starks. Ionogen Media, LLC Copyright 2020. All Rights Reserved.