Less than two months ago, Haylee Claypoole did not know how to sew.
That was before COVID-19 changed everything.
In early March, the Windsong Elementary School fifth-grader watched a news report about a mother and daughter who worked together sewing cloth face masks for healthcare workers on the front lines of the battle against the virus.
"She looked at me and said, `Mom, I want to (make) some of those, too,’ and I said, ‘OK,’" recalled Audra Claypoole, who teaches fashion design and culinary arts at Prosper High School.
Since then, the duo has made 160 masks that they have donated to those who needed them throughout the community and beyond.
After posting a request on Facebook for donations of fabric and other mask-making supplies, "I had an outpouring of community members - they were all here in Prosper - that said, `We want to help,’" Audra explained.
The Claypooles have also received $220 in funds from multiple donors to help purchase materials.
Initially, Audra said she and Haylee weren’t sure to whom they would donate the masks.
"I had a couple people in my neighborhood who are in the healthcare industry and had reached out and said, `We’d love to take some,’" Audra said. However, "At that, point it wasn’t really certain that healthcare workers were gonna need or would be able to use the homemade masks."
Nevertheless, mother and daughter got to work sewing each day whenever Audra was finished instructing her Prosper High School students online and after Haylee had completed her schoolwork.
"It’s kind of a brain break from everything," Audra said, "and it gives us something to do and just makes us feel better that we’re able to help in some way when sometimes all of us feel so helpless."
Audra said she began teaching Haylee to sew "a couple little steps at a time to get her started. She kept wanting and persisting that she needed to know more."
In the process, the youngster learned how to cut and iron fabric and thread the sewing machine among other related tasks, with the goal of eventually creating an entire mask on her own.
"I feel pretty proud of myself - where I came from just not knowing how to sew and now knowing how to sew" masks by herself, 11-year-old Haylee said. "I feel like I just did a lot and had a lot to do, and I feel like it’s going to a good cause, so my heart feels good."
Before long, the Claypooles were being contacted by family members and friends, including one with a home healthcare business who needed masks to wear while working with elderly clients.
"I think we gave them 25 (masks) to start," Audra said.
Another friend reached out on behalf of a Dallas pediatric nurse who needed a half-dozen masks.
Haylee also contacted administrators at her school, who helped arrange a donation of masks to Windsong Elementary’s cafeteria workers who are tasked with distributing food to Prosper ISD students and families.
She also provided masks to teachers at Baker Elementary School, where she previously was a student, as well as to a neighbor who is a cancer survivor and needed a mask to wear during oncology appointments.
An individual who donated fabric to the Claypooles knew of an employee at Texas Oncology in McKinney, which Audra said was having difficulty obtaining personal protective equipment. "So she was looking to have stuff made."
Texas Oncology requested 200 masks and offered to supply all the materials that the Claypooles would need to produce them.
Audra and Haylee accepted the sizeable order, which they are currently working to complete.
Although people have offered to purchase masks made by the Claypooles, the pair politely decline payments.
"I always tell them we’re not doing this to gain anything," Audra said. "We’re just doing this to help."