Living the Royal Neighbors Way

A sewing machine

Like many chapters across the country, members of Chapter 20032 in Rock Island, Illinois, have answered the call for help during the current pandemic. They’ve applied spirit and skills alike to produce more than 500 face masks and distribute them throughout their community. And they have no plans to slow down any time soon.

Making a Difference with DMF

Julie Bender, a Royal Neighbors member for more than ten years, currently serves as a Chapter Leader for 20032. “We began making masks a while back,” Ms. Bender said. “We wanted to be proactive in sharing the protective equipment with others.”

“We used the Difference Maker Fund to create masks for patients at a local nursing home,” she explained. “The patients and staff were all extremely grateful, and it just took off from there.”

Meeting the Demand

Chapter 20032’s mask-making has increased in response to increased demand as wearing personal protective equipment and social distancing have become the new norm. “We began receiving requests for masks from the community, and the support we have received is amazing,” Ms. Bender said.

But there has been one snag – their desire to help stretches farther than their elastic supply!

“The materials needed to make the masks have been very hard to find at times, especially fabric and elastic,” said Ms. Bender. Luckily, they were able to overcome this obstacle thanks to community support.

“Members, friends, and family have donated clothing and sheets to supplement our need for fabric,” Ms. Bender explained. “One friend of the chapter actually shipped elastic all the way from Utah to help us out!”

Working Together While Staying Apart

Chapter 20032 also collaborated with a local business to utilize their co-work location, so they can work together while following social distancing protocol.

“Vecina was generous enough to share their building with our nine mask-making members,” said Ms. Bender, who is friends with the owner of this co-work business. When Vecina heard about the chapter’s efforts, they wanted to help. Bender continued, “We all had our own room to work in, but it was nice to have a sense of connection while we completed the task.”

The Royal Neighbors Way

“We have made hundreds of masks and are still going,” Ms. Bender stated. “We like to keep a tally of the work we have done. We also take special requests, including sports teams and cartoon characters. We’ve found that this makes wearing the mask more enjoyable for some.”

Thanks to the support, Chapter 20032 has been able to provide more than 500 masks to community members free of charge. “People always ask to buy a mask, but I always tell them no,” Ms. Bender proudly explained. “I simply tell them, ‘I will give you a mask.’ Why? Because it’s the Royal Neighbors way.”

Helping Out the Home Office

Their generosity has expanded to include the Royal Neighbors Home Office. Chapter 20032 will soon be creating masks for employees of Royal Neighbors to use when they begin to return to the building.

“Like many organizations, we were having trouble locating masks for our employees,” Royal Neighbors Director of Human Resources Lena Holland said. “We knew that our chapters were hard at work serving their community by making masks, and we reached out to see if they could help us in our time of need.”

With more than 130 employees, Royal Neighbors will need a lot of masks to comply with new workplace safety standards stemming from COVID-19.

“We are so appreciative of their help as it allows Royal Neighbors to continue working and serving members,” Ms. Holland explained. “It also allows us to continue leading philanthropic efforts across the country from our Home Office, especially when this support is needed more than ever.”

When asked, Ms. Bender and her team of member volunteers didn’t hesitate to stretch their elastic – or their giving spirit – a bit more.

“We are excited to be able to give back to Royal Neighbors in any way that we can,” Ms. Bender states. “We are appreciative of the support we have received from Royal Neighbors, so we are happy to return the favor.”

To learn more about how you can connect with a local chapter to support your community while staying safe, head over to our community chapters webpage.