In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, masks and other protective face coverings have become a staple of daily life around the globe. Because the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended people wear masks to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus, the demand for such protective items has increased drastically.

“There are too many people who don’t know where to find masks, or where to get them,” said Mary Elizabeth LaTour of Selah.

So, LaTour has decided to tackle this issue head-on.

Since mid-March, LaTour has been sewing masks and donating them to the community. Initially, she began making them in her home and giving them to family members. But when her mask-making operation became too large, she began sewing and giving them away in the lobby of Selah Auto Care (605 S. First St. in Selah), which she and her husband own.

“I never dreamed an auto repair shop would turn into a sewing shop,” LaTour said.

With the help of her teenage children, LaTour has created more than 2,500 masks for people of all ages and sizes. She has even made masks to accommodate the needs of individuals with hearing aids and children who have autism.

LaTour said the motivation behind her efforts is to help the community. Community members can go to Selah Auto Care, take however many masks they need at no cost, and make a donation if they choose. LaTour uses the donations to purchase materials to create more masks.

While some choose not to donate, many have been very generous. As a result, LaTour has had to spend very little of her own money on the effort.

LaTour’s massive investment is her time. Each mask takes approximately eight minutes to make.

“It’s a lot of time and work and effort put into it, but I don’t mind it,” LaTour said. “It’s still something I enjoy doing.”

She finds her efforts very rewarding.

“I know my kids are proud of me,” she said. “I feel like I’m helping the community. I feel like I’m proud of myself because it helps and it makes people feel safe and makes it to where people can go to work.”

LaTour plans to continue making masks as long as there is a need and she is able. Meanwhile, she continues finding joy in helping others.

“I just get a little bit of something that I enjoy, but also something that helps the community,” LaTour said.

Natalie Keller is an incoming sophomore at Selah High School.