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800 and counting ... Middletown students making masks with mom for coronavirus efforts

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It started with a Facebook post.

When the recommendation came from Gov. Tom Wolf’s office that everyone needed to wear a mask to help fight the spread of the coronavirus, Karen Muller made a Facebook post to let people know that she was making masks and for anyone to let her know if they wanted one.

“Suddenly, it blew up,” said Karen, who lives in Upper Royalton.

People began placing orders left and right. One restaurant asked for 150 masks.

Her son, Shawn, is in seventh grade at Middletown Area Middle School. When the orders started coming in, Shawn stepped up and asked his mom to show him how to use the sewing machine.

“From 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., he would just sit there and be, ‘What do we need to do?’” Karen said.

Then her daughter, Bridget, who is a freshman at Middletown Area High School, offered to help, too.

“They’ve really stepped up, and I’m really proud of them,” Karen said.

As of last week, the Mullers have made 800 masks, including masks for the McDonalds on Vine Street, Tattered Flag Brewery & Still Works, and Keystone Human Services. The Mullers have also made ear savers for Hops and Barleys, which pull the elastic away from the ears and hook behind the head.

Karen, who works as a medical assistant at a local doctor’s office and has been working from home, knows the importance of what her kids are doing.

“You know they’re thinking about everybody else, which is so hard at this age because teenagers are so self-centered. Their concern is everyone else,” she said.

While a neighbor and Karen’s husband will step in and help, she says that the kids are the driving force.

Bridget had taken family and consumer sciences when she was at MAMS, which Karen said taught her sewing. Shawn was about to start the class when schools in Pennsylvania were closed for the rest of the school year.

The kids have taken over sewing, cutting the fabric, attaching the strings, and helping fill the orders.

“I enjoyed threading the masks because I knew they would be ready to go to their new homes,” Bridget said.

When the Mullers go out to deliver the masks, Bridget and Shawn come along and do no-contact deliveries.

“I’ve done so little since they stepped in. It’s become their project,” Karen said.

When there’s a lull after completing an order, Karen said the kids will cheer, but soon after Shawn will ask for them to keep going. 

“I originally wanted to help for something to do, but then I realized I was helping the community, which made me feel proud,” Shawn said.

Karen said her youngest son, who is 8, will help out by reminding people, such as the woman who delivers the mail, to wear a mask.

Shawn said he’s enjoyed making the masks because he’s been able to spend time with his family. Plus, it’s a good break from online learning that the Middletown Area School District is providing.

Karen said she and the kids have been spending more time together, working toward their common goal.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s nice. The kids come down, and they hang out in the living room and we all hang out,” Karen said.

The Mullers are selling their masks for $2 to cover supplies, and anyone who wants a masks should email Karen at karenannm79@gmail.com.