Above photo: Summer Paris at ArcelorMittal enlisted her son to help sew masks during the pandemic
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States, countless people sought to do whatever they could to help their communities. Many at ArcelorMittal found unique ways to do the same, for each other and their neighbors.
“Promoting and protecting the safety and well-being of our people is our number one priority at ArcelorMittal,” said Steve Thompson, director, health & safety, ArcelorMittal USA. “I am incredibly proud to see that our health and safety values extend beyond the workplace and into the communities made up of our neighbors and key stakeholders. We always encourage our employees to use their time, talents, and leadership skills to make a difference in the community. Our employees are doing just that and more during these uncertain times.”
We are sharing a few stories of ArcelorMittal employees who have been glimpses of hope and encouragement for all.
Summer Paris - communications & corporate responsibility manager, ArcelorMittal Cleveland
When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the country, Summer Paris was left wondering how she could be of help to others. Hearing about the Cleveland Sewing Company and how they were looking for volunteers to sew masks to donate to smaller health care facilities, she decided that this was a way to help, and involve her 14-year-old son.
“There was a lot scrambling for PPE in the beginning and at the time we were making them, they weren’t readily available and it seemed like a good place to put our energy,” she said. “We had an assembly line and my son would iron all of the pleats and then I would sew them. He would then count and package them. It was some pretty good teamwork.”
While she and her son worked on the masks, Paris’ husband and 7-year-old daughter wrote notes of encouragement for Love for the Elderly.
“By focusing on something positive that we can do to help, it counteracts all of the scary or worrisome parts of the conversation,” she said. “It was important to involve the kids with these projects to give them a sense of purpose during an anxious time.”
Together, Paris and her son sewed around 150 masks that were a part of the 5,000 masks donated through the Cleveland Sewing Company. It was a unique way to connect with each other and others.
“Any opportunity to feel like we’re reaching out and connecting with other people is important. Knowing that there’s someone on the other end of the note or the mask helps you feel like you’re a part of a community,” Paris said.
Jack Hearns, Jr. - millwright and safety advocate, ArcelorMittal Cleveland
When Jack Hearns, Jr., learned of a mask shortage, he wanted to help.
“When everything started going on, masks were limited and I knew people who were going through chemotherapy or other health issues who needed masks so I asked my daughter to sew some for me,” Hearns said.
Each night he would ask his daughter, Payton, to make a certain amount of masks and each morning, the masks would be ready for him to distribute to those in need. They also donated several masks to a local nursing home facility where his wife works.
“I saw a need and wanted to meet it,” he said.
Not even a shortage of materials could stop Hearns and his daughter.
“The store was out of fabric so we bought cotton sheets and cut those for the fabric and used the elastic from the fitted sheet to make the mask,” he said.
Hearns was thrilled to hear that those who received the masks were more at ease to go about their lives safely.
“They were happy to get the masks to use when going to the store and be out and about,” he said.
Altogether, Hearns and Payton made and distributed around 200 masks. And while Hearns spearheaded the initiative and worked to make sure those who needed a mask received one, he’s quick to shine the spotlight on Payton and her sewing.
“She did all the work, I just asked,” he joked. “I’m so proud of her.”
Brian Dunning - process mechanic and EMR, I/N Tek and I/N Kote
As a first responder at work and an emergency medical responder (EMR) for the Red Cross of Indiana, Brian Dunning’s desire to help those in need is a constant in his life.
“I’ve never been the kind of person to sit back and see someone struggling and not do something if I can help. I mean, I’ll even stop on the side of the road if I see someone trying to change a tire,” he said.
When Dunning saw the need for child-sized masks for a local childhood advocacy center, he knew he and his 3-D printer could help. While cloth masks would work, the need to be laundered after each use meant that the center would need quite a lot. A 3-D printed plastic mask, however, could be washed and sanitized with ease and available for use quickly, and they would easily hold a cotton filter for even further protection. So, Dunning printed several masks in various sizes to donate to the center.
“I wanted to help out and it gives you something to focus on other than what’s going on in the world,” he said. “I don’t get anything out of doing this, but I do get pleasure knowing that someone’s taken care of and that they have what they need, regardless of what it takes from me.”
Dunning was happy to help and hopes that others will continue to do the same.
“It’s one of those things that once you start, it’s a chain reaction and people decide they want to help out,” he said. “It really takes just one.”
Dave Gutelius - electrician, I/N Tek and I/N Kote
During a pandemic, we have all become even more aware of the importance of our first responders on the front lines of caring for the sick and injured. Gutelius is one such first responder who volunteers as a firefighter at not one, but two of his local fire departments, all in the pursuit of caring for others.
“I enjoy helping people and making them feel better. If I can make things a little bit better, it helps us both and I can give back to my community, especially during these times,” Gutelius said.
And he does not do it alone. Gutelius volunteers alongside his daughter at both fire departments.
“Seeing her so gung-ho really fires me up again,” he said. “I’m really proud of her and it gives me a boost to keep going.”
“You’ve got to have a certain drive for it, you’ve got to love serving,” he said.
While the physical and day-to-day aspects of being a volunteer firefighter haven’t changed in this pandemic, making sure he stays safe, keeps those he’s helping safe, and keeps his family safe from the virus has added a new mental challenge to face when Gutelius answers calls. But it’s a new challenge he’s ready to tackle.
“Since the virus became widely recognized, I’d say it’s now the first thing I think about going on a call. Do I have my face mask with me? Will I be first on scene and have to go inside the home if it’s a medical call? Will the people in the home answer honestly when I ask about their exposure to the virus?” he said. “My wife has an auto-immune disease, so bringing that home to her and my kids weighs on my mind quite a bit. It won’t stop me from running calls.”
Kirk Ward - special projects/demolition manager, ArcelorMittal Indiana Harbor
When Kirk Ward’s wife, Tammy, decided to loan the couple’s RV to a young family whose father and husband were medical workers and at the forefront of the COVID-19 fight, he didn’t second guess her decision.
Wanting to be of help to someone in any way, Tammy checked a community page on Facebook where she saw a request from Christina Fitch who was looking for an RV for her husband, Daniel, a CT tech at St. Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, Ill., to stay in during this pandemic to keep their family safe.
The Wards were both ready and willing to offer the Fitch’s the use of their RV for as long as they needed. But their help didn’t stop at delivering the RV. Kirk continues to help the young family by servicing the RV and Tammy stays in contact with Christina as she knows that living separately from her husband and caring for their small children must be difficult.
“I was in the military and put my life on the line and this man is doing the same thing right now. It’s a different circumstance but he’s on the front line right now. Whatever I could do to help them out and make them feel comfortable - it just made sense to do it,” Kirk said.
Kirk and Tammy knew this was just one way that they could live out their faith and bless others during these uncertain times.
“Helping is a natural thing for me. No matter what situation I was in myself if God puts something before me that I can provide or that I’m able to do I really don’t even question it, I just step out and do it,” Tammy said.
“This blesses both families. It blessed us to be able to do it and it blesses them as their need was met,” Kirk said. “Whatever we’ve been blessed with and have an opportunity to bless others, we want to do that.”
Irene Smith - account representative - customer service, plate, ArcelorMittal Burns Harbor
Irene Smith has been working to spread cheer throughout the pandemic by sewing masks for anyone who needs them. Through Facebook, she has found a wider community to serve and regularly shares when she is made new masks. She has even kept additional masks in her purse to hand out to strangers who do not have them.
“I’m donating where I can. I also have a lot of elderly folks in my community and I’ve been doing my best to pass masks out to them,” she said. “The more people that need it, the more I’m happy to make. I mostly like knowing that I have helped people that matter to me and even strangers. People feel more comfortable moving about their daily lives and that’s been the biggest joy.”
To keep others and herself positive, Smith has used bright colors and fun patterns for the masks and sends them out with a note of encouragement. It is all to fulfill her personal mission.
“My personal motto is that if I’ve made one person smile today, then it’s going to be a good day and I feel like that’s never been more important than it is right now,” she said. “Whether it’s through a fun pattern on a face mask or maybe a positive quote that I include when I send it out, if I help somebody smile and have brought them a little peace of mind at this time, it’s endlessly worth it. That’s what’s keeping me going.”
Smith has sewn nearly 400 masks, and while working on her sewing skills has been an added benefit, it is helping others that brings her the greatest happiness.
Doing something that is for the good of the community has helped Smith get through this pandemic.
“Hopefully, we’ll see the other side of this soon and I hope that this goodwill that’s been generated will act as a foundation for future engagement within our communities. I don’t want this to end, the kindness that people have been showing. It’s been so inspiring to me personally and I want to see it continue,” she said.
For more information on ArcelorMittal, visit their website https://usa.arcelormittal.com/.