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North Bellmore family sews 500 masks for essential employees

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To keep busy during quarantine, the Karolak family, of North Bellmore, has been making face masks to gift to essential workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier this month, Basha Karolak broke out her portable sewing machine to stitch together some 300 masks with the help of her sons, Viktor, 10, and Konrad, 4. The decision came after government officials urged people to make masks if they had the means to do so, "So we decided to make some masks," Viktor said.

Viktor, a fifth grader at Saw Mill Elementary School, began by cutting fabric and assembling  materials to lend a helping hand to his mother. Now, Karolak said, he is getting some practice on the sewing machine. 

"He's taking on the challenge to sew them and has been a very good helper," she said. "We're proud that he's taking time from video games or playing outside to help us."

So far, the Karolaks have donated the homemade masks to health care workers at Mount Sinai South Nassau hospital in Oceanside, NYU Winthrop Hospital in Mineola, and employees at North Shore Farms and Mama Gina's Pizzeria in North Bellmore.

Viktor also dropped off masks to some of his friends in the neighborhood, and even to his teacher, Katie Panchyn. 

"We got a personal delivery the other day, and my husband and I wore them when we went to the food store," Panchyn said. "The fabric has different designs on them, and they're really stylish."

This week, the Karolaks estimate to make another 100 masks, and have enough fabric for 100 more, bringing the grand total to 500.

"We've been getting calls back from [North Shore Farms and Mama Gina's], who are overwhelmed with business, and they were thrilled to get the masks," Karolak said. "They never expected it."

Panchyn said, "In our class, we always talk about choosing kindness, so to see [Viktor] out with his family doing acts of kindness without any prompting . . . makes my teacher heart so full."

"We like to help people," Karolak said. "If somebody needs help, we’re there for our neighbors." 

Viktor said he enjoyed sewing masks for people around town, adding one piece of sage advice: "Stay home."