RCBC Fashion Design student aims to protect community with homemade facemasks
Wednesday, Apr 08, 2020

Cheryl Jackson

As the youngest of eight children, Cheryl Jackson is no stranger to hand-me-down clothing. And while some young girls could view that as a disappointment, she saw it as an opportunity.

“I would take the secondhand clothing and turn it into something new,” Jackson recalled. “The summer before 8th grade, I fell down a flight of stairs and was homeschooled after that. The only elective teacher was a sewing teacher. She would come to the house, and teach me the basics of using a sewing machine (even though I did not own one). I fell in love with sewing. Once I reached the 10th grade, I took my first real sewing class, and I was hooked.” 

Jackson always wanted to attend fashion school, but her family couldn’t afford it, so she participated in school fashion shows instead. Since then, sewing and fashion have remained constants in her life. Even after getting married and starting a family, the thought of pursuing a fashion degree never left Cheryl. Selflessly, though, she had foregone her own college education in order to finance her sons’ undergraduate and graduate degrees. 

“I wanted my children to have a good chance at life and to graduate debt-free, so their father and I paid for their education. Once they graduated and I became an empty-nester, I decided to go back and finish what I started,” Jackson said. 

Now, a student in Rowan College at Burlington County’s fashion design program, Jackson finds herself in the unique position of putting her skills to use to fulfill an incredible need. 

“Making facemasks started as a fluke. I am an office manager, but due to COVID-19, I am working from home. However, my husband, who is a truck driver, still has to go to work. I made a mask for him, out of concern for his safety, and he wore it to work, and the guys on the job loved it,” Cheryl said. 

Soon, Jackson began making masks for her husband’s coworkers, local nurses, friends and senior citizens within the community. Before she knew it, she was supplying out-of-state orders, including Maryland, New York and North Carolina.  

“I have probably made approximately 200 masks. At first, I didn’t charge anything because I only made a few, but then the requests kept coming. I am thankful for those who are paying so that I can afford to continuously order fabric and supplies,” Jackson said.  

Cheryl’s masks are constructed with two-ply 100% cotton fabric and elastic ear wraps. They are safe to wash, super soft and breathable. She finds solace in the knowledge that her masks provide comfort to people at a time when there’s so much fear and anxiety circulating. She even wears them herself when she needs to leave her house to go to the store or pick up prescriptions.  

“My heart is overjoyed to offer the least little bit of comfort during this nightmarish environment that we are living in. Although most of us cannot get the N95 mask that doctors and nurses wear, it’s helpful to have something to cover our mouths and noses to help mitigate the spread of the virus. I really wish I could do more, but the little that I do fills my soul with joy.”