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Mask Maker: Collierville man sews, donates nearly 4,000 masks

For more than two months, one Collierville healthcare worker spent between 12 and 14 hours a day sewing masks and medical caps in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

In that time, Michael Lester, a surgical technician at Baptist DeSoto Hospital, produced 3,982 masks and 1,120 medical caps.

The impressive deed began in March, when Lester, who has battled neck cancer for eight years, was forced to stay home from work due to his depleted immune system. 

He immediately started making masks and caps for groups like the Mid-South Medical Mask Makers.

“When all this came about,” Lester said of the pandemic, “I broke open my (fabric) stash and started sewing. It keeps me occupied.” 

Lester returned to work two weeks ago but continues to make medical caps in his off time. 

“I’m just trying to help people out,” he noted. “I’ll make them as long as I have the materials.” 

He creates the fabric shields with his wife, Faith. 

“She stacks and cuts them out, three at a time,” he said. “Them I sew them.” 

Lester learned the art of sewing from his grandmother, Essea May, an avid quilter.

“She taught me everything,” he said, noting that he has made around 50 quilts over the years. 

He uses his trusty 1964 Sears Kenmore to create myriad styles of masks. 

“She’s still tugging along,” he said of his machine.

Along with sewing and donating the masks and caps, Lester provides another special service. 

“Every one of them has been prayed over,” he added. 

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