Darlene Miller turned 85 years old in August.

She spent much of the last few months of her 84th year tucked in behind her sewing machine, making more than 1,300 masks for the Grand Island, Nebraska, community where she lives. In fact, her masks have been shipped throughout the state, and some landed at Saint Francis offices where they were gratefully received for children, families, and employees. Since August, the total number of masks sewn is near 2,500, and Darlene is about ready to turn off her sewing machine.

Darlene started making masks for her family and friends, and then – she laughs and admits she’s not quite sure how it happened – the enterprise grew. On a fixed income, Darlene used up her material stash from a lifetime of sewing projects, and has relied on donations of fabric, elastic, and thread to keep going. Those supplies, she said, often arrive when she least expects it.

“I call it a God thing,” she said. “I’ll be caught up, and I don’t have any elastic or I’m on my last spool of white thread. The first couple of times, I panicked and started tearing stuff apart in the sewing room trying to find some elastic. Then you look in a box that you have gone through a half a dozen times, and there, laying on top, will be a package of elastic. I call them little miracles. And I like the little miracles.”

Now, Darlene doesn’t get upset when she’s running out of needed items. “I say, ‘Well, God it’s up to you. You want me to make some more, you know what you need to do.’ And he does it,” she said.

Generous, kind-hearted people like Darlene and supportive community organizations have poured their kindness on Saint Francis Ministries throughout the pandemic.

From sending hundreds of homemade masks, many through the CarePortal organization that works through faith communities, to grants that have assisted Saint Francis’ work in numerous areas, the kindness and support have definitely felt like a “God thing.”

“We have been grateful for the support we’ve received in the form of masks, hand sanitizer, grants to support our work, and prayers to bolster our hearts as we have taken on the challenges of COVID-19 in recent months,” said The Very Rev. Robert N. Smith, dean, president, and CEO of Saint Francis Ministries. “As well-received and needed as each of these donations was, it was also important to know that we have the support of incredible communities who believe in us and what we do to make a difference for children and families.”