”We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider these people my heroes.” — Fred Rogers
DuBOIS — While officials in the DuBois Area School District are working tirelessly to implement guidelines for students to safely return to school on Aug. 24 despite COVID-19, there are those in the community, such as Peggy Coppolo, of Weedville, who has seen the need and responded.
“Heroes” like Coppolo are exactly what the school community needs, Superintendent Wendy Benton stressed at the most recent board meeting, which was centered around the district’s Health and Safety Plan for the 2020-21 school year.
It’s important “for everyone to do their part,” said Benton, as she talked about Coppolo being “a fine example” of someone who wants to help students and the community.
“She (Coppolo) has two grandchildren in our district, and she sees the need for face masks in our district,” said Benton. “She also recognizes that many of our younger students would have a very difficult time wearing a face mask all day. And I have a 4 year old and 6 year old so I certainly understand it’s hard to even find a face mask that will fit them.”
Benton and Coppolo worked together and decided that they needed some small face masks for the younger students.
“And she (Coppolo) has a variety of masks,” said Benton, referring to the designs, which include everything from mermaids, to lady bugs, to animals, bugs, dinosaurs, and even from the movie, “Frozen.”
Coppolo said she tries to choose cute designs that will encourage children to wear the masks.
“While most masks are just very plain and basic, these are just fun and colorful. They’re just what kids will like,” said Coppolo.
Coppolo started making masks for her church, Tri County Church in DuBois, after her daughter, Tammy, suggested it.
“I made a lot back then and then I heard on the news that Navajo Nation needed masks,” said Coppolo.
In January, she and her daughter recently became members of the Daughters of the American Revolution so Coppolo got in touch with DAR, who would provide a list of places where masks were needed. Coppolo made about 200 masks that DAR sent out.
“They were sending some for an elementary school in Culpeper, Virginia, and then a migrant school in Florida and a migrant school in Kentucky and I even sent some to my niece in London and just friends, whoever needed them,” she said. “And then I got to thinking here a few weeks ago, what about our schools? Here I am making them for all the other schools. So, I got in touch with Wendy and as they say, the rest is history.”
“She had inquired about what we would need and I know just from my children being 4 and 6, I had a hard time finding masks that would fit their small faces,” said Benton. “We (district) have some masks that we have purchased, but they’re mostly just a one-size-fits-all.”
“So, we decided that’s where we felt they would be needed the most,” said Coppolo.
Coppolo insists she’s not a sewer, the last time she had sewn anything was when her daughter was in kindergarten.
“I spent hours watching different videos to find one that would work where I thought I could do it,” said Coppolo. “That’s how I learned. In fact, my granddaughters want to learn how to make masks.”
Coppolo said she sets a goal for herself to make about 12 masks per day. To date, she’s made 924 masks, 215 of them for the district’s elementary students. Benton noted that approximately 1,100 of the district’s 3,600 students are elementary-aged.
Coppolo said she will continue to focus on making more masks for the young children in the DuBois Area School District.
“I graduated from here (DuBois), my three children graduated from here and my granddaughters are going here so I have a connection,” said Coppolo. “It feels like I’m helping to keep everybody safe, especially the children.”
Benton said she has promised Coppolo that she will make sure the children in the primary grades have the face masks available.
“I greatly appreciate her generosity,” said Benton. “And once again, I did not ask her to do this. She just reached out and said, ‘I want to do something to help our students and to help our community and help you to reopen our school district.’”