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Howling Success: Student’s Summer Project Turns into Impressive Charity Drive

Kailee Grable started making face masks for her family this summer, but has since expanded her production to provide masks and financial assistance to local non-profits and those in need.

Kailee Grable sews one of her handmade masks Play Video
Kailee Grable sews one of her handmade masks

Like many of her classmates, Kailee Grable’s summer didn’t quite pan out the way she imagined. The sophomore’s summer internship with the USDA was canceled due to COVID-19, so instead she started doing projects around the house. One of them was making reusable cloth masks for her family members to wear in public.

“As COVID-19 started picking up, my mom really started pushing our family to social distance and wear masks, and it really started to come to my attention that we needed more masks,” Grable said. “I started experimenting with a few patterns, made some prototypes, tested them for size and ear band length, and eventually I found a pattern I liked and made a bunch for my family and some of our friends. I think it was when I made some for my mother’s friend, though, that it started the seed in my brain to start making them on a larger scale.”

From there, Grable’s summer got a little busier. She started making and selling masks to her family and friends and made a website and GoFundMe account to help spread the word to others. She raised hundreds of dollars for her charity, Caring Coverings, and gave all of her proceeds to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC and to the Coronavirus Relief Fund at her church She also donated money and masks to Refugee Hope Partners, a ministry that works with refugee families from around the world who live in the Cedar Point Apartment Complex in Raleigh.

By the end of July, Grable had made 113 masks and raised nearly $700. Now that she is back at NC State her mask production has temporarily halted, but she plans to resume as she eases into her fall semester schedule.

“This whole summer has been a growing experience for me, but on the whole I would say it’s affected me for the better,” Grable said. “I’ve gotten to use my skills to help people better protect themselves, and having something productive to do helped keep me sane during quarantine.”

Kailee Grable poses with her pet chickens
Kailee Grable poses with her pet chickens

Grable is majoring in agricultural business management at NC State, and her advisor was the one who inspired her to crowdfund for mask-making supplies. The biggest inspiration for her project, though, was to help protect people like her mother, who is immunocompromised with several chronic illnesses. Her mother was also the one who taught her how to sew when she was young.

“It frustrates me when I see people not wearing masks, especially as someone with an immunocompromised family,” Grable said. “Some say that wearing a mask somehow dehumanizes people. I disagree, and to prove my point, I set out to make beautiful masks to help make them more than a scrap of cloth. I make each of my masks hoping it will brighten someone’s day and help them remember what it’s all about — protecting each other.” 

Grable plans to continue spreading her message about the importance of maintaining physical distance and wearing masks on NC State’s campus this fall. In addition to her studies in agricultural business management, she serves as a resident mentor in Owen Hall and is involved in the Reformed University Fellowship organization, where she helps lead worship activities on the music team. She has also been heavily involved in the Exploratory Studies Program, which is one of the main reasons she came to NC State. In fact, she also discovered the agricultural business management program at one of the Exploratory Studies Program’s Major Explorations Series events.

Kailee Grable (right) and fellow resident mentors pose for a photo during new student move-in
Kailee Grable (right) and fellow resident mentors pose for a photo during new student move-in

“Exploratory Studies is a very good program,” Grable said. “I appreciated having an option that helps guide students who don’t know what they want to major in because I didn’t want to go from college to college trying to figure out what I wanted to do. This program has really helped me discover my passions and solidify my goals.”