Nashville Actress Turned Mask-Maker Donates Hundreds of Designer Masks to Frontlines Heroes

Top Quote Like many, Elisabeth Donaldson—a successful actress, photographer, stylist and Scientologist—found her life turned upside down in a matter of hours once COVID-19 hit. End Quote
  • (1888PressRelease) May 08, 2020 - “I went from ‘living the dream,’ with two feature films in the works, to my entire industry shutting down,” she said.

    After recovering from the shock, Donaldson began searching for what she could do. Donaldson’s mother, an award-winning quilter, had recently posted an online tutorial on how to make face masks. Donaldson had been sewing since she could remember, even dragging her mother to the fabric store as a child so she could make a skirt for her stuffed hippo.

    Donaldson pulled out fabric from her garage, hit the sewing machine and posted a photo of her first on social media: a mask bursting with sunflowers, announcing she was making the protective item for those who needed it. She expected to get about 20 requests in all. She got about 400—in the first few days.

    Donaldson stayed up around the clock to fulfill the orders and donated a mask for every one she sold. Soon she was furnishing local hospitals and first responders with the trendy piece of protective gear, using special superhero-patterned fabric for these humanitarians on the frontlines.

    “I pick a hospital and drop off masks at their front door or provide them to Salvation Army workers who are helping the homeless,” Donaldson says, who has now donated hundreds of her creations with the help of her friend, Sally Harvey Anderson. “These are the people putting their lives on the line to care for the most at-risk populations or those who already have COVID-19, so it’s incredibly satisfying to be able to provide them some calm and peace of mind and to bring them comfort and health. It’s taking a situation that could otherwise make you feel scared and strange and turning it into something that can be potentially beautiful.”

    While Donaldson has gotten orders from North Dakota to Philadelphia, those who live in Nashville are invited to drop by Donaldson’s front porch to pick up their masks to ease the burden on the post office. There, Donaldson also provides the “How to Keep Yourself & Others Well” booklet, which lays out with clarity the vital basics on a broad range of prevention measures, including how to put on and take off a mask and gloves. The booklet, one of a set of informational booklets downloadable for free on the online How to Stay Well Prevention Resource Center, was created as a public service by the Church of Scientology.

    “The way that you manage any crisis is you learn what you need to learn to stay safe, and you do what you can to stay productive and on top of it,” says Donaldson through the chatter of her sewing machine, as she describes spending her mid-April birthday making masks.

    Donaldson attributes her ability to rebound and adapt to Scientology. “Scientology gives you tools to help you recover quickly. What I’ve learned is that life never stops being hard, but the more you can assist yourself to become stronger and better equipped, the more you can deal with the difficulties of life in an intelligent way,” she says. “If you have a system that helps you deal with failure so you know how to get on top of a negative situation, you’re just always going to be able to win.”

    Donaldson feels she is one of many in Nashville stepping up, getting things done, and making it happen. “This is why this is my home,” she says. “This is a community filled with people who are always going to help each other.”

    “That’s what started it all is I just wanted to be helpful—to do something that was useful. Fortunately, it became extraordinarily useful, and was able to help me, help my friends and the community all at the same time.”

    Donaldson’s contribution, she says, is making health and safety a bit more approachable, aesthetic, comfortable and something that feels good, that people can be proud of.

    “I feel really lucky,” she says. “I keep thinking ‘I’m so lucky I can sew.’”

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