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MHS Alumna Makes Masks for COVID-19 First Responders

While these are extraordinary times—we are extraordinary people. Many of our Milton Hershey School graduates are on the front lines of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and they are bringing hope to others. These are their stories.

When coronavirus (COVID-19) shut down much of the entertainment industry, Milton Hershey School graduate Bridget Savadge ’87 made the most of it and joined an informal posse.

“As the lead wardrobe check for Cirque Du Soleil’s KA [in Las Vegas], I’m now on unemployment because there will be no live entertainment for the foreseeable future. I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to need to keep myself busy,’” she said. “I’m a member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE) Local Union, which is part of the Global 720, and we started a mask posse.”

Milton Hershey School alumna, Bridget Savadge, takes a selfie in her COVID-19 mask and a cut-out of Milton Hershey.The IATSE Local group is made up of wardrobe employees, audiovisual technicians, stagehands, and box office workers. When they were furloughed, they banded together to start making masks for local hospitals, nursing homes, front-line workers, and anyone who needed them.

“It takes about 30 minutes to make one [mask],” she said. “Since the union is such a big organization, everyone has a role. We have somebody who orders the fabric, someone who cuts the patterns, someone who drives, does pick-ups, the laundry, and the sewing. I sew a batch of 50 masks at a time in the quote style method. This means I do one step for all 50 masks and then do the next steps for all 50 masks until they’re complete.”

The group makes cotton masks but also specializes in making N95 masks for different hospital systems, first responders, corrections officers, doctors’ offices, and even airmen at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada.

The idea to make masks all started with an order from one of Bridget’s MHS classmates. Once the order was placed, the idea grew and even gained support from the larger MHS community.

“A classmate of mine reached out to me and ordered 900 masks for his company. And that’s where it was born, but it’s my Milton Hershey [School] family who is helping to support me. People have been donating fabric and thread by purchasing items from my Amazon Wish List. It means so much because not only are they helping me help others, they are helping my community—and they don’t even LIVE here, but because it’s me, it’s all Hershey.”

Hershey is woven into the fabric of Bridget’s story. While a student at MHS, she found her love of sewing from a housemom.

“I lived in student home Oak Grove and my housemom, Mrs. Jefferies, thought it was important that we learn to sew,” she said. “She taught us the basics, things like how to sew a button and how to hem pants.”

Milton Hershey School alumna, Bridget Savadge, has a sewing station set up to create masks for COVID-19 first responders in Nevada.It wasn’t until she was in high school, when her creative side took over on the sewing machine.

“We all had to take Home Economics,” Bridget said. “When I was making my junior prom dress, I left the pattern back at the student home and it ended up being my way of making my dress different. My teacher gave me a D because I lost the pattern, but I learned that I liked things that were different.”

Bridget went on to get her theatre degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and her master’s degree in costume technology from Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. She’s spent more than two decades working in Las Vegas and finds a lot of joy in her work—especially now.

“That’s partly why I make the masks. It’s because it gives me a purpose,” she said. “It allows me to pay it forward. Milton Hershey [School] taught us that somebody’s always going to be worse off than you, and if you make your community better, your life will be better. That’s what I live by. I take that quote at the bottom of Mr. Hershey’s statute very seriously because his life is our inspiration. The way Mr. Hershey gave back to his community is the way we need to get back to ours. That’s why I keep doing it.”

Milton Hershey School alumna, Bridget Savadge, poses for a photo with a COVID-19 mask she made out of a Hershey's chocolate pattern.

Read Bridget Savadge’s MHS Alumni Success Story.

Do you know of an alum on the front lines of the COVID-19 outbreak? Is it you or someone you love? Share your stories with us! Submit them here ➡️

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