Kingsport teacher leads mask-making operation

Rick Wagner • Apr 11, 2020 at 7:30 PM

KINGSPORT — A fifth grade teacher’s effort to help her daughter make a graduation dress, along with a little social media attention, has spawned a mask-making effort she heads for those distributing free student meals throughout Kingsport City Schools.

Kennedy Elementary School teacher Jennifer Pangle posted a photo on Twitter of her helping her daughter, D-B EXCEL senior Katie Pangle, make a dress for graduation since the clothing stores are closed. After the post, Superintendent Jeff Moorhouse contacted the teacher about leading an effort to make masks for the food distribution workers and volunteers.


Health authorities are recommending folks wear masks when they come in contact with others even with the six-foot social distancing recommendations. But masks, which are believed to protect others from catching something the wearer might have, are in high demand and short supply.

“We are needing 315 at last count,” Pangle said Friday. As for Thursday, she said she has delivered 140 masks to Assistant Superintendent of Administration Andy True and Chief Student Services Officer Jim Nash, who in turn have been delivering them to the food distribution sites. On Friday, she said she had another 129 ready to deliver Monday. She planned to make another 45 Friday night, and others likely to add to the cause.


Pangle said she had plenty of fabric with which to make the masks, but she got a generous donation of thread from Joann Fabric and Crafts in Kingsport, which is giving away free fabric to people making masks and has a pattern available. Other patterns are readily available on the internet.

“I had fabric on hand, but they donated thread for this,” Pangle said.

Some of the masks have elastic, while others have ties. Pangle said it takes about 15 minutes of sewing to make a mask, not counting the cutting of the fabric. At least 19 people, including her and husband Donny, who is ironing fabric, are taking part on the project. Pangle added that more are joining the effort.


Pangle said the masks are being used by school nutrition staff, other school employees who volunteer to distribute food, bus drivers and custodians. One bus driver was sporting matching gloves and Easter bunny ears at Jefferson Elementary Thursday.

The school system distributes free food via a U.S. Department of Agriculture feeding program each Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. A free breakfast and free lunch are distributed to anyone 18 or younger, regardless of residency or enrollment status. The meals are given out at 11 school sites across the city and on school bus routes.

True said that the city system since it started free meal distribution on March 17 has distributed 72,325 meals. Of those, 39,782 were given out since Monday, and 17,482 were handed out Thursday. The system doubled up on meals Thursday since no food meals was distributed on the Good Friday holiday.

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