Gretchen Roufs and Amy
Gretchen Roufs and her friend Amy pose wearing the cloth facemasks Roufs made for Amy and others

My instincts were correct when I guessed that people in the jan/san industry would be going the extra mile to help those who are less fortunate during the COVID-19 pandemic. But nobody I spoke to wanted to go on the record with their good deeds. As one person said, “Our company is big on charity and public service. It’s actually one of the goals in our written strategic plan. We also do it as anonymously as possible.”

So, the stories of these helpers will remain anonymous, with the exception of my own. After all, I needed to figure out how to include some kind of photo with this column.

I started sewing facemasks in mid-March when a friend — the mother of two nurses — asked if I knew how to sew. She said her daughters need facemasks and the hospitals they work for didn’t have enough to go around. I found “how to” videos on YouTube, raided my craft closet for supplies, and sewed 64 facemasks until my sewing machine broke down and I ran out of fabric.

Donations are simple to do and can go a long way.

One owner of a jan/san company told me, “We try to figure out how to help small, local organizations that don’t have a lot of people supporting them. Our philosophy is to do a lot of small things for as many organizations as possible. We donated hand sanitizer, disposable gloves and toilet paper to places such as a footcare clinic serving the homeless and low income seniors, our local police station and a senior residence with 88 people who live alone and needed basic supplies. All the little things really do mount up.”

Another reader found she can donate her time by cooking food for the “elders” in her life.

“We share soup and stews with aunts, uncles and friends’ parents, and we give them masks and hand sanitizers, too," she said.

Another industry friend volunteers as a lector — a person who reads a biblical lesson during a church service — in his church’s weekly livestreamed mass.

Yet another reader partnered with two churches and one outreach program to deliver care packages to people at risk who can’t be out in public.

"We have provided 11,520 rolls of toilet tissue, 2,000 tampons and 500 sanitary napkins to be included with food staples in these care packages,” they said. “Thankfully, we never ran out of toilet tissue during the big shortage, so people were relieved to open their package and find the evasive product.”

So, to all of you who are sharing your time and talents to make life easier for someone who really needs the help: thank you. Thank you for being a helper at a time when people need it most. I’m grateful to work in this generous and ever-thoughtful world of jan/san folks.