TORONTO -- Jeannie Chan's Toronto alteration business has closed for the pandemic but inside it’s still a busy workshop.

Over the last 10 days, the 77-year old has been sewing up to 10 hours a day, compelled to stop the spread of COVID-19.

“Sometimes when I’m thinking I will cry, because I hear lots of doctors, nurses, they will be dying. They have a family,” Chan said from her store on Gerrard Street East in Leslieville.

“It’s very sad.”

Chan’s 81-year-old husband, Pak Soon, is in charge of cutting the elastics for the masks.

“We like to work and help people to fight COVID-19,” he said.

So far, the pair has made about 300 masks.

The mass production comes thanks to Chan’s long-time customer Linda Ing-Gilbert, who wanted a mask for herself, then saw a call for home-made masks at a local hospital. 

Following advice of public health officials, Chan hasn’t gone out for weeks — so Ing-Gilbert picks up the masks.

She’s given them to hospitals, long-term care home staff and air ambulance paramedics.

Some of the masks are being used by health care workers in their daily lives, for example, when they take transit, go to the grocery store or run an errand.

“If they are going to work, grocery shopping, they could be asymptomatic and they don’t know, I just want to be able to any way I can,” Ing-Gilbert.

“In these challenging times, any small thing makes a big difference.”


Canadian public health officials now say the use of a non-medical mask can be an extra way to protect others from COVID-19.

Chan said every day she’s working hard to make the best mask she can, one that will fit closer people’s faces than the one she sewed the day before.

She wants to make sure everyone who needs a mask has one to wear and is making hers for free. She just hopes people use her masks and like them.

“I feel very happy,” Chan said.