Area tailor straps them together one shield at a time
Over the past two months, several people have been working quietly behind the scenes to create the shields for healthcare workers and first responders in Steele County. One of them is Cindy LaBathe, who owns Cindy’s Tailoring in Owatonna.
In between her regular work, LaBathe assembles all of the straps for the shields. She puts together a strip of elastic with button holes so they can be made adjustable.
“It’s a no brainer job,” LaBathe says. “I’m able to watch TV while doing it.”
No brainer or not, LaBathe has had her work cut out for her. The process itself doesn’t necessarily take very long, but she has to do each shield individually. So far, she has put together straps for more than 1,000 shields.
LaBathe downplays her involvement in the project. “I’m not doing a big part, I’m just doing the straps,” she said. “We’re all doing a part so it doesn’t end up falling on one person,” she added.
Mike Beckman of Federated Insurance, who has spearheaded the shield project, is appreciative of the help LaBathe has contributed. “Cindy has been diligently working with our team to figure out the best way for the shields to fit with buttoned elastic so they can be adjusted for a secure fit,” Beckman pointed out. “We continue to give her hundreds of shields a week to attach straps to and she delivers them quickly and to my house when they are ready,” he said.
Beckman said they would not have been able to do this project without LaBathe’s expertise. “We have created over 1,000 shields so far, and she is the only other person on the project that I can say has touched every shield made,” he said. “Without her help, our shields would not be as valuable to the wearers as they are.”
Besides making straps for the shields, LaBathe has also been producing cloth masks. Two weeks ago she donated a bunch to the Owatonna Fire Department during a special mask drive.
“As a small business owner, her business took a hit with so many of her customers being sent home for work, but she turned it into a positive by making cloth masks and donating them to the fire department for distribution to the community,” Beckman said.
LaBathe also sells the masks, only after being told by someone she shouldn’t donate all of them.
“If somebody I know has to be in the hospital, I want them to be protected,” said LaBathe, who has been sewing since she was 4 years old and been in the sewing business for 41 years. “At least I like to sew.”
Asked when she thought this was going to end, LaBathe said, “I think the masks are going to be the norm.”
Beckman said, “Our community is lucky to have someone so willing to give of her time and skills in this time of need.”