Changing the world, one mask at a time

By DAISY WASHINGTON / Community Columnist

“My earliest memory of serving my community is as a teenager assisting with the production of a Christmas program at First Baptist Alton Church where my father, Reverend Sam Payne was the Assistant Pastor,” said 66-year-old Phyllis Peterson.

Peterson participated in the March of Dimes (MOD) 3-mile walk through Leeds, a fundraising event. March of Dimes is a United States non-profit organization that works to improve the health of mothers and babies.

“You know, everyone knows someone who has had cancer. My oldest sister had ovarian cancer. She died in June of 1973. That’s how I got involved with Relay for Life through my church,” explained Peterson. “We wanted to raise money to find a cure.”

Phyllis Peterson, with the help of her daughter, has made approximately 1,000 masks since the COVID-19 pandemic started. (Contributed)

It is the American Cancer Society’s signature event and most successful fundraiser. Peterson volunteered with the Vincent Library where she served as chairperson of the Board of Directors for over five years. She supported fundraising events such as Vincent in the Park by assisting at the Library Information table.

“I was interested in ensuring the survival of the library, addressing issues such extending hours of operation so that the library would be a thriving part of the Vincent community,” she said.

Perhaps one of her most significant acts as a volunteer is making masks for RSVP. Peterson volunteered to assist, program Coordinator Marvin Copes with the task of making masks to distribute in the community.

“I volunteered because I want to help,” she said.

Peterson donated at least over 100 masks to RSVP. She also makes masks for graduations, weddings funerals and businesses. She estimates that with the help of her daughter she has made approximately 1,000 masks since the pandemic started. She cuts 50 masks an hour.

“I’ve known how to sew since I was in sixth grade and made a dress in the ninth. I was a member of the 4-H Club. My mother was a seamstress,” Peterson said.