HELENA — As the Navajo Nation deals with a high rate of COVID-19 cases, a group of women living more than 1,000 miles away in Montana is stepping up to help.
Lola Wippert lives in Browning and has been sewing for years. She typically sews ribbon skirts for her business but switched to making masks during the pandemic.
She initially sewed 250 masks to donate locally. Family members joined in, then her team of "sewing warriors" started to help, too.
So far they’ve donated almost 850 masks to people in their community.
325 of those masks are also on their way to the Navajo Nation to help people living there.
For Wippert, who shipped the masks Wednesday, it’s a project that comes from the heart.
"For us, all of our tribes, we always consider each other our brothers and sisters, and we need to help each other out," she said. "They are a poor community. They hardly have electricity and running water. It’s just devastating what’s happening to them…I just thought, they need our help. They’re our family."
That’s why she’s using her talents to give back alongside her family and friends.
"I just put it out there and said, hey, I'm going to sew masks," she said. "Whoever wants to join, let me know. I had a lot of ladies step up and say, hey, I want to do this…and donations of fabric and thread and elastic. It was just awesome."
She estimates the volunteers spent, on average, 3.5 hours each night sewing, seven days a week. Some women sewed for 8 or 10 hours a day.
Wippert is still accepting donations of fabric, elastic and other sewing supplies. You can contact her on her Facebook page.
They are soon going to sew masks for Starr School community elders.
If anyone wants to send masks, they can mail them to Chinle Chapter Government.
Their address is 4600 Navajo Route 7, NN Bldg #4600, Chinle, AZ, 86503.