Sewing hope: Vincennes University community making and donating face masks

Susan Brocksmith with her sewing machine.

March 25, 2020

VINCENNES, Ind. – The whirring sound of sewing machines can be heard inside the homes of many Vincennes University employees. Fingers of all ages and experience levels rush to ‘sew hope’ by making homemade masks for community members. All in an effort to help curb the spread of COVID-19. 

A child wearing a face mask with comic book onomatopoeias.Gratitude is pouring in to VU employees and all who are joining in this mission.

“Having a child that falls into the high risk category with a congenital heart defect we have to take extra precautions to keep him healthy during this pandemic. Knowing that our community has people out there like Cassie (Vennard) willing to take time out of her day to help keep people like Miles safe makes me feel so proud to be a part of it,” said Mallory Squires of Knox County.

Vincennes University’s homemade face masks are being shared with families, healthcare workers, retail store and pharmacy employees, hospitals, government agencies aiding children, and more. We implore others to join in this effort.

Demand for masks is high as the supply chain has struggled to keep up.

Susan Brocksmith

Susan Brocksmith, Department Chair for VU’s Agribusiness and Cosmetology programs, answered a social media request asking for masks. She has assembled a team of friends and family to make masks for Good Samaritan Hospital in Vincennes, Ind. She’s sewing masks, collecting donations of cleaning supplies for cancer patients, and teaching remotely among other things, but that’s not stopping her from doing all she can to help in a time of need.

“Part of the reason that we’re on this earth is to help others,” she said.

Cassie Vennard

Cassie Vennard wearing a face maskCassie Vennard didn’t even own a sewing machine and hadn’t used one since middle school when she was asked to help. She had simply been asked to donate materials. However, she wanted to do more.

She used a donated sewing machine to create masks before ordering a new one, and has since produced more than 145 masks with the help of her children and husband, Jonathan Vennard, an instructor in VU’s Advanced CNC and Programming program.

The family’s first donations went to the Knox County Department of Child Services and a nursing home facility in Odon, Ind. She’s currently making masks for first responders and Good Samaritan Hospital.

“I wanted to help people in our community and it’s really easy to put these masks together," she said. “Orders are flowing in from grocery store workers and factory workers that work at facilities that have been deemed essential business. I’ll keep helping until I can’t anymore or run out of fabric. These are unprecedented times and creating this workflow at my kitchen table that is helping people and giving them a sense of security is in turn helping me cope with my own feelings about being quarantined at home with my family.”

Karen O'Connor

Karen O'Connor headshot

Karen O’Connor is doing her part, while also practicing social distancing. The VU Pharmacy Technology Program Chair and Instructor has made about 50 masks. She is repurposing never-worn scrubs into masks that are double layered and washable. Once a mask is complete, it is washed and sanitized before being delivered.

“The community is coming together as a team,” O’Connor said. “People have tapped into their resources and said, ‘Who can sew? and What can we do?’ We’re all a community. It’s a network of here is what they need and who do we have to do it.” “I can fill a pharmacy order a day. You have to cut the pattern, sew them all together, sterilize them, and deliver them.”

A face mask sitting on a bed or couch.

Join the VU family in the fight against the coronavirus. Use your needles and threads, and help others at the same time. Instructions how to make masks, including patterns, can also be found courtesy of The Turban Project at 

Want to help?

Deaconess Women’s Hospital in Evansville, Ind. has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and kindness from the community, country, and world. It is one of many hospitals asking for face masks. Get instructions at

A collection of masks sitting on a table.

Family rooms are being transformed into sewing workshops and people are sharing fabric and patterns. While we may be apart physically we are together in a unified mission to help others.  The VU community applauds and encourages this community effort.

VINCENNES UNIVERSITY - Indiana’s First College

VU is state-supported with campuses in Vincennes and Jasper, the Aviation Technology Center and American Sign Language program in Indianapolis, Early College Career and Technical Education Centers, and additional sites such as the Gene Haas Training and Education Center in Lebanon, the Logistics Training and Education Center in Plainfield, and the Gibson County Center for Advanced Manufacturing and Logistics in Fort Branch. VU offers online degrees and classes to students who need access to college courses and flexibility through its Distance Education.

A leader in dual credit and career and technical education statewide, VU also offers instruction at military sites throughout the nation.

In addition to offering a wide range of associate degree and certificate programs, VU also offers bachelor’s degree programs in technology, homeland security, nursing, secondary education programs in mathematics and science, and special education/elementary education.

VU enrolls students from throughout Indiana, 36 other states, and 21 other countries. Tuition and fees are the lowest among Indiana campuses with residence halls. VU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Founded in 1801, VU is Indiana’s first college and is the only college in the nation founded by an individual who would later become President of the United States. William Henry Harrison, the ninth U.S. President, founded VU while serving as governor of the Indiana Territory. More information is available at


Vincennes University Newsroom

MARCIA MARTINEZ, University Life Reporter & Sports Information Director

   812-888-4164 office, 314-599-1519 cell,,

VINCENNES UNIVERSITY, Department of University Relations,