Assurant remains committed to supporting employees, customers and communities through the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our steadfast goal is to always treat our Assurant employees with respect and dignity, given all they and their families are dealing with during this time. We’re continuously moved that this same energy is shared by our employees who have adopted the Assurant Cares* focus, expressing commitment to their communities through employee volunteering. These inspiring initiatives are what bring us together while we’re physically far apart.  

Dawn Borrett, who works in business continuity at Assurant, is one of those individuals who has turned to the community during this pandemic. She also happens to know her way around a sewing machine. She decided to make it more than just a hobby when she learned about the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks at her local hospital, where her daughter works. Following her kind heart and steady hands, she continued to make masks to help keep other local essential workers safe as well.

We virtually sat down with Dawn to celebrate another example of an Assurant employee volunteering to make a difference. We wanted to learn more about how she generously donated her time and supplies to help those who needed it the most. 

What inspired you to sew masks for essential workers? 

Dawn: My daughter is a RN at a local hospital. She typically works in the ICU and the emergency room. They knew fairly early that something was happening. It has been very trying for nurses not only with helping the sick, but also trying to calm the fears of family and friends of the affected. So, when the workday ends, I’m off to the sewing room to make masks for my community requests. 

I think it was in about mid-February when my daughter she said, “Time to get your sewing machine out.” I do a lot of sewing, but she said things are getting scarce with respect to masks, ventilators and gloves at the hospital. A few days later, the health company that she works for put out a public request for equipment, emphasizing masks in particular.  

I had also heard in my sewing groups on social media that some hospitals in the U.S. were looking for local seamstresses to sew masks. And my daughter told me that their hospital was in need; could I please start sewing masks? So that’s what I did. I made several hundred for her to distribute at the hospital. After that, I learned of other areas that needed masks, so I provided masks for the local fire department, the mortuaries and others. 

We’ve heard about the limited PPE resources in hospitals. Has your daughter shared her experience with you? 

Dawn: She said they’re under very strict protocols, but they’ve had to loosen them because of the lack of supplies. In the past, when you left a room, you took off your gown and mask, and threw them away. Then, you go into a new room, put on a new gown, a new mask and a new shield if you needed it. But because supplies grew so scarce, often they were wearing the same PPE from room to room. They would, however, change when going from a COVID-19 patient to a non-COVID-19 patient. I wouldn’t want to be there, you know? I’m concerned for my daughter, but she’s still at it. I’m so very proud of her. 

How many masks have you sewn at this point?

Dawn: Somewhere between 300 and 400. I know there are many sewers that have done way more than I have. I’ve seen thousands from people in my sewing groups. I could probably put out about 40 masks an hour. I’ve gotten it down to a science. 

Where are the masks being donated? 

Dawn: The bulk of them went to the hospital. Well, they went to my daughter, who took them to the hospital. A few went to the local fire department and a mortuary. 

Other seamstresses have shared that it has gotten difficult to find the materials they need to sew masks. Have you run into a similar problem? 

Dawn: Well, yeah. But one thing about quilters and other seamstresses is we hoard material. I make frequent visits to the fabric stores, so there’s no shortage of a material in my house. What I did run out of was the elastic that goes around the ears, but I was able to eventually order more online. Now that I’m resupplied, I’ll be sewing more masks because there’s still a need. The local health agencies here are still asking for them.  

What kind of mask did you end up sewing? 

Dawn: I just made a basic mask. I think the conclusion was that anything is better than nothing. Masks are pretty simple to make. You’ve probably seen them made out of bandanas. Or people using ponytail holders, scrunchies or rubber bands to hold them in place. You can also put certain materials through buttons so you can fasten them to your eyeglasses instead of around the ears. I did make some adjustments like that for my brother’s masks, because he has to wear his all day long. I know when I wear mine to go grocery shopping it gets a little annoying, so I can only imagine the irritation of wearing them all day. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us about your experience sewing masks? 

Dawn:I would like to share with you how proud I am of my daughter. Not just because she’s a nurse, but what she’s doing outside of the emergency room in the midst of the pandemic. She’s a mom and has two children. They’re being homeschooled because the schools are closed. She works anywhere from 12- to 18-hour shifts as a critical care nurse. 

She’s also a photographer. Her photography business is on hold right now, but she’s been documenting the critical care workers in the emergency rooms, and other front-line workers. Her motivation is to document the history of emergency workers during this pandemic. You know, how we look back at the 1918 Spanish flu virus here in the States — it’s interesting to look back at those old photographs, and that’s why she’s doing that. 

Employee Volunteering is Deeply Rooted at Assurant 

Like many people across the country, Dawn initially picked up her needle and thread to help a loved one stay safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Seeing the greater need, she went above and beyond to make masks for other essential workers. As an Assurant employee volunteering her time and resources for the greater good, we’re proud to share the compassion our global Assurant family has shown during our new normal.  

*Assurant Cares is the Assurant organization’s community service and giving initiative, dedicated to protecting, connecting and inspiring. We support our communities through giving and volunteerism, which increases employee engagement and reinforces our commitment as a responsible corporate citizen.  

For more information about how Assurant makes a difference in the communities we serve, visit our Social Responsibility page