DANVILLE – A Danville Area Community College dean is appealing to the public for help making cloth face masks that will prepare children at a neighboring elementary school for the first day of school whenever that may be.

Laura Williams, dean of adult education and literacy at DACC, said the college partnered with nearby Meade Park Elementary School several months ago as part of DACC President Stephen Nacco’s BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) challenge.

Williams’ BHAG is to help the schoolchildren at Meade Park develop a strong connection to DACC and think “college.”

In an effort to be a good neighbor and build a relationship with Meade Park, DACC staff collected children’s gloves, hats and mittens in December. The college also had plans to continue the partnership into the spring with visits from male mentors from DACC and the community who had volunteered to talk to the school’s large group of fourth-grade boys.

But the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools statewide and derailed DACC’s spring plans with Meade Park.

If anything, the pandemic made Williams realize that the Meade Park schoolchildren would need support from their collegiate good neighbor as well as lots of face masks.

“We want to make sure we’re here to support each other now more than ever,” she said.

With the Illinois State Board of Education requiring all students to wear face masks when schools reopen, Williams said she hopes to collect enough homemade cloth masks from people who enjoy sewing to provide one for each Meade Park student as well as have some masks left over to donate to other Danville District 118 schools.

“This is going to be a huge need,” she said. “A lot of people don’t have sewing ability.”

Williams said she is concerned about children showing up to school without a mask or losing their mask.

“What if they don’t have a mask? They will miss valuable class time,” she said. “It’s important to keep them engaged in education and in school.”

Primarily, children’s masks are needed, but Williams said some of the older students might need adult-sized masks.

“I would love for this to be a neighborhood or city project,” she said.

“If we came up with way too many masks, we would share with the other schools,” Williams said. “Every school is going to need them.”

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