Apr 07, 2020

Caring for our utility customers and health care workers during COVID-19 response

By day, Jessica Bechtel answers calls from PPL Electric Utilities customers. By night and on weekends, the Scranton customer service representative answers a different call: a plea for cotton masks to cover N95 respirators for health care workers.

It began with a simple ask. A mom Bechtel knew from her son’s day care was aware of Bechtel’s love of sewing and asked if she would make her a few cotton masks.

“I really wasn’t planning on making any more after that, but another mom I knew who runs a small business in town said she was making masks as well, so I said I would make some,” said Bechtel. “She sends me the packing labels and envelopes and I sew the masks and ship them.”

In just nine days, Bechtel has sewn 220 masks. Some were given out locally in her home town of Scott Township, Pennsylvania, while others were shipped to New Jersey, Ohio, Tennessee and California. The cotton masks are not meant to prevent the coronavirus. Rather, they are used to cover the N95 respirator, so the N95 can be used more than once.

“It’s really a family affair. My husband cuts the fabric and my 6- and 9-year-old cut the elastic and any dangling strings. I call my kids my ‘quality controllers.’ Even my mother-in-law helps by ironing the pleats. It’s a lesson in home economics at our house!” said Bechtel.

From start to finish, each mask takes about 10 minutes to make.

“They are all made out of love and sent to workers on the front lines,” says Bechtel. “I will continue to make them as long as there is a need. I want to be a good role model for my children.”

This is one example of how we’re #PoweringThruTogether.