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Compassion project

Annie’s Bridal owners sewing masks for community members, organizations

-Submitted photo
Denise Weiss, of Fort Dodge, focuses on sewing a face mask at her kitchen sewing studio. Weiss, a co-owner of Annie’s Bridal, is working with her sister, Debi Gardini, to sew and donate face masks for individuals and organizations.

Springtime is usually the busiest season for sisters Debi Gardini and Denise Weiss.

The two sisters co-own Annie’s Bridal and Dress Shoppe, 1027 Central Ave., and April and May are usually hectic times with teens searching for the perfect prom dress and brides hunting for their dream wedding dress. However, with the current COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, high school proms have been canceled, weddings have been postponed and most non-essential businesses have had to close their doors to customers for the foreseeable future.

So with the sudden loss of business, the two sisters decided to put their seamstress skills to even better use — sewing reusable cloth masks to donate to friends, family and organizations all around the country.

It started with Weiss’ daughter, who is a plasma center manager in Georgia.

“They use face shields, but they don’t have masks,” Weiss said.

-Submitted photo
Denise Weiss and Debi Gardini, owners of Annie’s Bridal, are sewing face masks that are reinforced to stand up to machine washing and disinfecting.

So she made a couple dozen masks and sent them to Georgia.

Shortly after that, Weiss and Gardini started cutting out patterns and sewing mask after mask after mask after mask. They’ve gave masks out to the LifeServe Blood Center, the Marian Home and UnityPoint Health locations across the state. The sisters have even sent masks out to friends and family in Fort Dodge and as far away as Texas.

It just made sense for the two to use their skills in this way, Weiss said.

“We’re not selling wedding dresses and we can’t be at the store,” she said. “There’s a need out there and we have the means to make them and the talent to make them.”

And the two aren’t trying to make any profit with this project — they’re just doing it for the good of the community.

-Submitted photo
Denise Weiss, of Fort Dodge, has set up a studio of sorts in her kitchen to sew dozens of face masks to donate.

“People that have been asking me for them have been asking how they can pay me,” Gardini said. “I just tell them to make a donation to the Beacon (of Hope men’s shelter) or to the Lord’s Cupboard.”

It takes about 20 minutes to make a mask, the sisters said. The most time-consuming part has been cutting out the patterns in the fabric. The sewing step is a breeze for the sewing machine veterans.

“I have been reinforcing them,” Weiss said. “Instead of just sewing something over once, I flip it and sew it twice so it stands up to laundering more.”

Gardini said that the cloth masks are a better alternative to people re-using the disposable masks over and over again, as the cloth masks can — and should — be washed regularly.

“With these cloth masks, it’s not doing anyone any good if they’re wearing it and not washing it,” Weiss said. “They need to be washed daily.”

The two sisters named their shop, Annie’s Bridal, after their mother, who they think would be proud of what they’re doing with these masks.

“Our mom was such a faithful and kind and compassionate woman,” Gardini said. “This is what she would want. She would want us to be giving back and doing something.”

To make a request for masks from Gardini and Weiss, call 515-302-8289, or message the store on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AnniesBridalShoppe.

The sisters are also accepting donations of materials, including the elastic bands for the masks.

For those who would like to request a mask, the sisters have just one simple request of their own.

“Just pay it forward,” Gardini said. “That’s all we asking. Just pay it forward to someone else.”

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