Local hero Linda Penner’s custom masks meet needs in a wide area

By Carmen Fanning
Fort Hays State University

HAYS, Kan. – Heroes all over are making an impact in light of the present COVID-19 pandemic. Linda Penner, Kansas Wetlands Education Center administrative assistant, has used her talents for the safety of essential workers and the needs of the less fortunate.

Penner has used her time productively to create facial masks and asks only that customers donate whatever they can to the Ellinwood Food Bank.

Penner’s inspiration began in her Ellinwood.

“I have a good friend in Ellinwood that owns our local, small-town grocery store,” she said.

“When announcements about safety guidelines were issued, I told her I was very concerned about her employees being on the front line, and I’d make them all facial masks because you could not find them anywhere. I also made a few for the employees at Sunflower Bank in Ellinwood, where my daughter works. All are considered essential employees, and they were all dealing with a huge increase in customer traffic coming through their doors.”

Thus began a huge demand for Penner’s custom-made facial masks. Her creations have reached far and wide and brought a noticeable profit to the Ellinwood Food Bank.

“After spending a few hours daily on my KWEC duties, I sew,” said Penner. “As of today, I have donated a little over 500 masks, and thanks to the generous supporters have raised over $2,000 for the local food bank. I’ve sewn many special orders in addition to the ones found at the grocery store. The masks have been sent to all our surrounding states, and some to the Navajo Indian reservation in Arizona, which has been hit extremely hard with this virus.”

Penner’s humility and act of kindness has positively impacted numerous people from all walks of life.

“My parents taught me many years ago, ‘We don’t always have the financial means to support others in need. So you do the responsible thing to support your community and use your time and talent to help when needed,’ ” she said.

“I’ve tried to live by that, and it’s a time to work together and not in conflict to provide whatever and wherever you can for our fellow humankind.”

Kansas Wetlands Education Center, affiliated with FHSU’s Werth College of Science Technology and Mathematics, is located 10 miles northeast of Great Bend at the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area.

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