For Whatcom County woman Debbie Carl, her mission to make masks started three weeks ago. It was a simple idea really.
"We just thought we’d make a couple for our family, and when I went to JOANN, there was a nurse standing by where the elastic should have been, and she was crying. I said, 'Are you okay?' and she said, 'No, there's no elastic and I’m a nurse and we have no masks...I really didn’t even know what to say to her. I felt so much emotion at the time, so I came home and said to my mom, 'We must sew masks,' and that's what we proceeded to do."
Over 1,350 masks later, Debbie and her mother are now working with other women to supply masks for pretty much anyone who asks. From healthcare workers, to veterinarians, correctional officers, firefighters and childcare workers, they've even found ways to sew special masks for people who've recently had brain tumors removed.
While so many are thanking her, Debbie says she's the one who's thankful.
"I’m just so thankful to be alive and so thankful to be able to give back in whatever ways I can. I took from society for many, many years."
For about 20 years, Debbie struggled with addiction, first pills, then heroin.
"I wasn't contributing in any way to our society."
Five years ago, Debbie decided enough was enough, and went to the treatment center, Harvest House of Hope in Bainbridge, Georgia.
"Debbie came here a broken woman from Washington to Georgia. What a culture shock that was!" Cissie Franklin, the executive director of Harvest House of Hope said, choking up when she thinks of how far Debbie has come.
She says once Debbie got clean, she found her calling in helping others.
"Debbie changed, she really changed...it’s just the greatest blessing anyone could ever hope for with what we do, seeing somebody's life change and pay it forward."
Debbie has made masks for the women and staff at Harvest House of Hope, and for the Washington nurses who got her through heroin detox.
"Those nurses were there for me when I was at my sickest, at my worst, and they loved me through that."
April Stanton, a CNA at Harbor Crest Behavioral Health, said "it means everything to have this mask Debbie made."
Karla Eilers, an RN at Grays Harbor Community Hospital also wears hers with pride.
"To know we were able to help her, and now she’s able to help me, it’s just wonderful."
"She’s certainly one of my patients I will never forget," says April.
Debbie has loved making masks for each and every person who's asked for one, but there's something very special about the masks she gave to the women who helped save her life.
"To be able to be providing masks for them, I just feel like its really come full circle…I’m just so thankful."
And she isn't slowing down. She and her mother start making masks at 8 a.m. and sometimes, Debbie doesn't stop until 2 a.m. It's every mask drop off, each special and emotional, that keep her going.
"One of the ladies who came here, her husband is in treatment for cancer for chemo and she was in tears as she was leaving with the mask in her hand."
The man who received that mask calls Debbie an angel. Other nurses we spoke with say "she is a gift."
Debbie says during these difficult times, we all have a role we can play to make a difference.
"I’m just hopeful that maybe, there's somebody out there who says I can’t, and I’m here to say that you can."