Amy Hiner wears a mask she has made in a selfie. Her new business is making masks for those in need. The company donates money made from the masks to area non-profits.

ONTARIO -- Amy Hiner had just closed a business when a friend asked her for a favor.

"I had just told people that Gate Genie (a business selling fashionable, but affordable fabric covers for child and pet safety gates) wasn't taking off like I wanted when my husband's friend asked if I would make masks for his company."

Hiner, who said her grandmother taught her to sew and took home economics in school, never considered herself a professional seamstress.

The sewing machine she used for Gate Genie was borrowed from a family member. Then, on March 21, Hiner purchased fabrics to begin making masks. 

"I used YouTube videos a lot," she said.

At the end of the first week, Hiner and a team of friends made about 100 masks. Two weeks later the mask business has taken off.

She and her group of 'fierce women' have made masks for businesses and individuals.

Hiner asked several groups to be involved in the sewing business, including Voices of Change Activism and Leadership (VOCAL) and the Women's Democratic Caucus.

"We have a diverse group of women," Hiner said. "We have different generations, races and economic levels all helping others."

Liz Castle, a retired counselor and teacher from St. Peter's Catholic Church, as well as a master seamstress, said this project has made her feel useful by demonstrating she can contribute her time and her materials to save lives.

"This is what I've always wanted," Hiner said of her new business. "Putting women to work at a decent wage."

A mask for an individual is $10. Companies who buy more than 50 masks get a wholesale price.

Hiner said she pays women who ask to be paid, about half of the team is simply volunteering. The other half receive $3.75 per mask, which takes about 15 minuets to manufacture.

"It comes out to about $15 an hour," she said.

All of the profits, after expenses, go to Richland County non-profits, Hiner said.

"We know there will be a lot of need when this pandemic is over," she said. "We just want to help."

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