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Protecting Boise’s vulnerable communities with stylish sewing

Though decorated with whimsy and playful fabric, make no mistake, these face masks are a labor of love and dedication for Boise’s most vulnerable citizens.

Darrin Pufall-Purdy, a Boise State associate professor and director of Theatre Arts and Costume Design, was inspired to use his sewing skills while social distancing to battle COVID-19 in the Boise community. Together with his husband, son and Boise State costume shop manager Grace Slaughter, the small but mighty team is determined to sew 100 masks per week.

“Our masks are made from two layers of cotton with elastic ear loops. They are completely washable and according to the Center for Disease Control, they will provide about 50 percent protection from a direct cough or sneeze. They are also very helpful in keeping the wearer from touching their face,” said Pufall-Purdy.

Man wering orange patterned protective face mask
Associate professor Pufall-Purdy tries on a stylish hand-sewn mask.

Though Boise hospitals are not currently accepting homemade masks, Pufall-Purdy and his team are making them in advance of the potential demand. He also is working with local assisted living centers to offer the masks to those in need of protection from the virus.

“Most of these organizations have limited resources and their residents are on lockdown because they are very susceptible to this virus. A good portion of our first batch will be going to Edgewood Spring Creek Manor-Senior Living,” said Pufall-Purdy.

Cassidy Martin, the director of Edgewood Spring Creek Manor Senior Living, was  touched by the team’s generosity and believes the masks will help ease anxiety for residents.

“We’re so appreciative for Darrin’s kind gesture and are truly thankful for such a considerate donation. The masks he created not only help ensure the continued safety of our Edgewood residents and staff but also help everyone feel a bit more at ease during these uncertain times,” said Martin. “It’s so important to share these uplifting stories of our local volunteers, businesses and individuals working together for the greater good of the community.”

Pufall-Purdy has been sourcing materials for the masks from theatrical production companies across the Pacific Northwest, including: Boise State Department of Theatre, Film and Creative Writing; Company of Fools (in Hailey); Boise Contemporary Theatre, The Idaho Shakespeare Festival and Broadway Rose Theatre Company (in Tigard, Oregon), as well as his personal stock.

“While this is a very serious virus gripping the world, we have had a lot of fun combining patterns and textures for a fashionable flair,” said Pufall-Purdy.

“Being a Bronco in a time of crisis means knowing that you have the talent and the heart to make a difference,” said College of Arts and Sciences Dean Leslie Durham. “Our campus community is sharing generously of what we have, whether it’s supplies from labs and studios, disciplinary expertise in modeling, or creativity in making protective masks. I always feel proud of my colleagues, but I feel that – along with tremendous gratitude – more intensely than ever in this moment.”

Anyone interested in joining these efforts can contact Pufall-Purdy at