10 April 2020

By Anthony Garzilli

When Paula Traver returned recently from yet another trip to Walmart, the Hilton Head Island resident wasn’t ready to rest. There was so much to be done.

Since last weekend, Traver has spent about 12 hours each day sewing masks to help prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Using fabric depicting Batman and the solar system, Traver’s designs originally were just for family, friends and her real estate clients. But late last week her husband Jack went to Grayco wearing one of the masks she made. The mask was a hit at the hardware store and management asked Jack if Paula could make some for its employees. Sure, she said —16 masks shouldn’t be a problem.

Word of the masks spread within the company. When Grayco asked for masks for two of its other stores, 16 turned into 80 and Paula headed back to Walmart. More fabric was needed.

Then the Jazz Corner and Sea Island Landscaping asked for 25 masks, Traver said, and she plans to make 45 to send to Traver IDC, her family’s electric company in Connecticut. About eight businesses had requested masks as of April 8. “It’s been fun,” said Traver, who has lived on Hilton Head Island for 17 years.

With help from her friend Patty Zensinger, who has purchased fabric and helped with cutting and ironing, Traver and Gloria Krolak have done lots of sewing. The 48 different cotton designs include scenes of Paris and two London designs — one of buses and the other depicting a trip around London. Traver says these make her think of her daughter, who lives in London with her husband.

There are plenty of Disney themes, too. And Stars Wars and Trolls. Traver said she is stunned by the demand for her masks. “I was blown away,” she said. “It feels really good to give back.”

Traver said she had never made a mask before, but she watched a few YouTube videos and through trial and error, including five prototypes, she settled on her unique masks.

She includes cleaning instructions (wash every day with soap and water for 20 seconds. Hang dry or dryer) and a note with each mask: This mask was lovingly made for you.

This is not Traver’s first experience helping others during extreme times of need.

In 2001, after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Traver and a group from her church in Connecticut traveled on a charter bus to Ground Zero. With help from the General Theological Seminary and the Episcopal Diocese of New York, they brought supplies including masks, shoes and socks, hoping to provide relief for firefighters working at the scene.

The trip was such a success that Traver decided to keep giving. During the next four months she returned frequently to Ground Zero with local fire and police departments and school teachers and brought supplies, fresh sandwiches and good cheer.

This instinct to help in times of crisis came roaring back with the mask project. “I try to get fun fabric that I hope makes people smile,” Traver said. “I just hope to lighten the mood a little. If I can help people smile, that just feels good.”

For more information about her masks, call Traver at 843-247-3728.