Essential: The seamstresses of Moore County

{Editor’s Note: This is the seventh of a multi-part series highlighting all the essential folks in Moore County. Readers nominated each interview subject. To nominate someone, email editor@lynchburg-times.com.}

Jack Daniel’s Steve May and local seamstress Lisa Swift discuss plans to make temporary masks for the distillery’s production staff. {Lynchburg Times Photo}

Lynchburg Homeplace Director Steve May sits on the Lynchburg Square in his shiny black pick up … waiting on an important meeting. He’s got a box filled with bandanas, coffee filters, shoe strings, and other materials. His mission: to enlist an army of Moore County seamstresses to fashion handmade masks for the 650 employees of Jack Daniel’s Distillery.

“Each seamstress, on a good day, can make 10-20 masks,” he says. “So I’m looking for all the help I can get.”

A few minutes later, Diamon Gussett Manager Lisa Swift arrives. She’s traveled from her hometown of Petersburg to enlist. They discuss design options, materials, and a timeline and then she’s off. A few days later, May reports that he’s found nearly 20 local seamstresses to help with his mission.

“They are a huge asset to our community,” May says. “We are very fortunate to have these unsung heroes among us.”

It’s a sentiment Jack Daniel’s representative Svend Jansen echoes.

“We made the decision very early on to close all of our visitor experiences at Jack Daniel’s. At the same time, we’ve worked extremely hard to keep our employees safe while also being able to make our Tennessee whiskey. As the demand for face masks increased, our team came up with an innovative way to create temporary masks for our production employees out of Jack Daniel’s bandanas until we are able to secure more permanent sewn masks.” 

Around the corner, Barbara Hills of Honey Bunny Mercantile is also making masks as fast as she can. She’s delivering her masks to the distillery and letting officials there distribute them wherever there is the most need. She also says she’s making masks and shipping them to family members in New Jersey, which has the second highest rate of infections in the U.S.

“I feel that by making the masks, we’re helping to stop the spread of this virus,” Hills says. “It is the only way to do it besides staying at home.”

Moore County masks of love

Across town, Moore County local Norma Stone sit busy at her sewing machine. On a normal day, you might find her at the Lynchburg Ladies Handiworks Store on the historic Lynchburg Square. Today, she’s making as many masks as she can to hand out to area first responders and medical professionals like her granddaughter Stonie Read, who recently graduated from nursing school at Martin College. She’s also been making masks for other essential folks, like the cashiers at Woodard’s Market and the Dollar Store. At press time, she’d made nearly 250 masks.

“I wanted to help people,” Stone says. “And give people who had to be out some protection.”

Stone is one of several local seamstresses working together through the Moore County Family Consumer Science (FCE) Club’s Masks of Love project – organized through the UT Extension office. Club members, local 4-H students, and volunteers have worked day and night recently to provide 780 masks to folks in Moore County. The team of seamstresses includes including Stone, Valerie McKenny, Linda Wolaver, Rita Watkins, and Sara Hope.

Staff at Woodard’s Market show off there protective masks made by the seamstresses of Moore County through the FCE Masks of Love project. {Photo Provided}

“They have put in countless hours,” says UT Extension’s Brenda Hannah. “They deserve the highest honor for having a gift that can be used for our county for a time of need.”

If you or your organization needs masks, contact Hannah at the UT Extension office at 931-759-7163 or through their Facebook page. •

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently owned and operated newspaper that publishes new stories every morning. Covering Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

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