April 8, 2020

Adventist Scarf Designer Sews Face Masks for Health-Care Providers

Katie Fellows, for Lake Union Herald

While many are quarantined at home, figuring out what to do with their time, Keila Sánchez, scarf designer and church member at Paw Paw Seventh-day Adventist Church in Paw Paw, Michigan, United States, has put her skills to work sewing medical face masks for local and out-of-state health-care providers.

“God blessed our daughter with life six years ago, and the least I can do is to bless others in this time,” Sánchez said. “Through my work, I’m able to share a story, hoping to encourage other families in their fights and just to share that God is still there. We can’t control the future, but He’s always there.”

Sánchez’s passion for designing began when she started sewing from home to cover her daughter’s medical expenses. Her daughter, Saila, was born with congenital heart disease, leading to five open-heart surgeries at a young age. Thankfully, these life-saving surgeries were a success, and Saila is a thriving and joyful, living miracle, Sánchez said.

To better protect Saila as they traveled to doctor’s appointments, Sánchez designed a blanket to fit the child’s car seat. It wasn’t long after she posted a photo on social media that other mothers began to take notice and started to contact her about making car seat covers for them.

“In a couple of weeks, I had several orders for car seat covers. And that’s how we were able to pay for my daughter’s medical expenses,” Sánchez said. “And it turned into a growing business.”

Sánchez’s passion and creativity are the driving force behind the growing brand, KozySaila, named for her daughter. Featuring a versatile collection of accessories, designed with a mix of fabrics, including velvet, leather, and cashmere, KozySaila has gathered a group of loyal buyers who like her bold, elegant, artistic pieces.

While Sánchez’s degree is in art education, she  realized that her calling was in fashion design. After several years of creating wearable art pieces inspired by her love of color and patterns, she sought to transform the everyday scarf.

Today, KozySaila’s scarves have become a year-round accessory and have garnered the attention of many, including some in the fashion world.

“Last year, KozySaila started growing even more. An agency reached out to me from New York and invited me to Paris Fashion Week to showcase my first designer collection,” Sánchez said. “I prayed and asked God to show me what to do, and I left the decision in His hands.”

As a small-business owner, Sánchez had concerns about the future of her business in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. She got up early one morning and spent time with God, she said. She prayed, “I’m going to keep doing my part, but You’re my business partner. So we’re going to do this together.”

Not long after, Sánchez received a text message from a friend who works in health care, asking if she had thought about sewing homemade face masks.

“My friend got me thinking about it, and I’d heard about shortages of masks,” Sánchez said. “So I put away the scarves I was going to work on and instead spent half of the day designing a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC]-approved face mask pattern.”

Throughout the day, Sánchez received more messages and social media tags about making homemade face masks. One message in particular about nurses and doctors having to reuse their medical masks for up to a full week helped to strengthen her determination in making more face masks. Sánchez continued to work throughout the night and until noon the next day.

“I felt God was telling me that it was time to do something,” she said.

In less than 24 hours, Sánchez was able to make 60 masks and hand-deliver them to medical staff at Lakeland Medical Center in St. Joseph and Lakeland Hospital Niles, in Niles, Michigan. Since then, she has also sent face masks to other health-care facilities out-of-state, including one in New Jersey. Along with her deliveries, Sánchez sends a note of encouragement with a Bible verse. Most recently, she's been writing out Nahum 1:7, which says, “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him” (NIV).

“The pediatric team from Spectrum Health Lakeland is very grateful for [her] donations [and support],” said Grashelle Dungo-Peña, a pediatric nurse. “Your gift is greatly appreciated and will be used to assist Spectrum Health Lakeland to provide the very best in health care to our community.”

Within the first week, Sánchez had sewn more than 150 face masks for medical workers and concerned family members who want to protect their loved ones.

“Thank you to all the supermen and superwomen in the frontlines!” Sánchez said. “I feel that we all need encouragement right now, and if I can do that through a face mask, I won’t stop. God takes care of us, and He's providing, one face mask at a time.”

The original version of this story was posted by the Lake Union Herald.