Employee Spotlight

PCI Employee Uses her Needleworking Skills to Craft Over 100 Face Masks for her Community


Ty Sigmon, PCI Marketing and Communications Coordinator

Tue Apr 21, 2020

COLUMBIA, Md. – While adhering to Gov. Hogan’s stay-at-home orders in Maryland due to the COVID-19 outbreak, PCI’s Nina Serina found a worthy cause to keep her busy. Over the past several weeks, she estimates she has sewn over 100 face masks that she has since distributed to family, friends, and other community members amid the public health crisis.

Nina, a Senior Analytics Developer with PCI, made the first mask for her daughter-in-law, whose job requires her to interact with the public frequently.

“She [Nina’s daughter-in-law] asked to borrow my sewing machine because hers was in the shop, and the shop is closed, but my sewing machine doesn’t leave my house,” Nina said. Her sewing machine is one of her prized possessions. “When I first moved to Maryland, I bought a sewing machine before I bought a TV,” she said.

Nina makes the masks mostly from materials she already had on hand but has ventured out to a local shop to purchase some additional items as the project has grown. Currently, she is having trouble finding elastic to continue churning out masks.

On average, Nina estimates that it takes her about 30 minutes to make one mask. With over 100 face coverings already under her belt, that equates to about 50 hours she has spent making face masks for others over the past few weeks. Additionally, she says she has about 20 more in her queue that will go to those that have asked for them or are in need.

When researching how to make masks that would comply with public health COVID-19 recommendations, Nina went where most people would – Google.

“I Googled it, and my daughter-in-law sent me a link, and then I found a different link. It’s two layers of the designer fabric, with an inner-facing layer in the middle, which is supposed to be non-woven, for a total of three layers.  Then, I tweaked the design a little bit to make it easier to make,” said Nina.

Once word got out that Nina was able to produce face masks, a few requests from family and friends grew into a much larger project. “I made my sons and my daughter masks, then a friend and his children and grandchildren.”

She eventually found herself making masks for the family of her friend’s sister, whose grandchild is currently receiving treatment for cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Once the requests stopped, Nina realized that she had enough time and materials to keep her project going, so she started reaching out to at-risk members of her community. “I said, well, I should call my neighbors because they’re elderly, so I ended up giving some masks to my elderly neighbors.”

“By Nina taking on this project, she is exemplifying what sets PCI apart from other organizations,” said CEO, Sean Battle. “Our company was founded on three guiding principles: performance, commitment, and integrity.  Unquestionably, Nina is demonstrating this credo in an exemplary way, and we are thrilled that she’s a part of our team.”

Nina’s supervisor, Tom Ruo, wasn’t at all surprised to hear that she had taken on a project to help others.  “Nina arrived at the customer site eager to jump into the data and contribute to the mission,” said Tom, a Program Manager with PCI.  “Her compassion for others and drive to support the mission became readily visible almost immediately. She applies her genuine caring attitude equally to others and her work. Nina’s diligence to her tradecraft results in the enablement of the team’s support to the customer in an extremely agile manner.

This project isn’t the first time that Nina has used her prowess with the needle for the public good. She’s frequently made items for her children’s schools and her church. Additionally, she partnered with her daughter several years ago to crochet wool caps to go under the helmets of soldiers that would provide a buffer between the soldier’s head and the helmet. They were also useful in helping to keep the soldier warm or cool, depending on the weather. She estimates they made about 70 caps for that project.

When looking forward, Nina hopes to continue helping others with her sewing abilities upon her retirement from PCI. Specifically, she wants to make quilts that will provide some comfort to children who face lengthy stays in the hospital as they undergo surgeries.

“They’ll give the quilt to children before they go into surgery, then take it away during the surgery, and when they wake up, they will have the same quilt. So that’s a thing that I want to do when I retire.”