Fowler teacher making masks to help community during COVID-19 pandemic

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- While school is out, Melissa Squeo's dining room is doubling as a sewing studio.

The one-woman operation is on a mission to make a difference one mask at a time.

"I'm not used to being at home," she said. "I'm used to being in the classroom."

The first grade teacher put her newfound time and talents into Maimie's Masks, named to honor her late friend who lost her battle with cancer.

"It just seemed so fitting because she did so much for other people," she said.

What started as a mask project to help a friend in a high-risk group through the COVID-19 pandemic blossomed into a fundraiser.

"At first, I started with people I knew, Squeo said.

Her hair dresser, a local business, stranded tourists, then her gifts became random acts of kindness after meeting a local veteran while shopping.

"I thanked him for his service and I said, 'Today, lunch is on me,'" she said.

Whether it's donating to GoFundMe pages or gifting grads with something special, Melissa is using her talent to lend a helping hand and at times, dipping into her own pockets.

"People need help," she said. "As a teacher, I still have a job, but some people don't."

You can see the fundraisers she's supporting on the Maimie's Masks Facebook page.

The most recent is the GoFundMe set up for funeral expenses for Raphael and Jonathan Garcia, the Fowler father and son tragically killed in a domestic violence shooting.

"I wouldn't want the family to feel alone," Squeo said. "I'm sure they've experienced that enough in dealing with this."

Her fundraising doesn't stop at masks. She's planning a t-shirt fundraiser to furnish the new Fowler fire house. The volunteer fire department will get their new station next month.

Priced at $5 per mask, Melissa aims for a 1-2 day turnaround.
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