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13-year-old helping hundreds of Iowans by making face masks

Before the pandemic closed things down, 13-year-old Michael Follmer had half a trimester of sewing class. During the pandemic, he's putting those skills to use.

DES MOINES, Iowa — With the help of some fabric donated in Des Moines, and some hiccups along the way, 13-year-old Michael Follmer found a way to help hundreds of Iowans.

"It's hard not to just be overwhelmed with gratitude for a child that does this work," said Alta Medea-Peters, from Domestic Violence Intervention Program.

"It's a situation that I can't really contribute much to," Follmer said.

So, he figured out a way that he could.

"I had half a trimester of sewing class before all heck broke loose," Follmer said.

That's all Michael needed. Now he spends a few hours each day in front of a sewing machine, doing his part to help.

"The way I figured I could contribute was making masks."

It started with small requests.

"Someone placed an order for six masks, someone placed an order for three masks. It's been a gradual process," said Follmer.

But now he's up to more than 500 masks made. His latest donation was to the Domestic Violence Intervention Program in Iowa City.

"It's pretty powerful and it's exciting to see," said Medea-Peters. "I've known this young man for quite some time of his life, and so it just brings me great joy to see what a wonderful young man he's growing up to be." 

Michael is part of a larger group, Masks for the Frontlines Iowa, that, collectively, has made more than 120,000 masks.  And he's making a great impression.

"To see people like Michael makes us so proud, especially when kids are taking time out of their day when they could be doing who knows what," Jess Mazour, Founder of Masks for the Frontlines Iowa, said.

So now Michael spends a few hours each day at his sewing machine, helping and learning along the way.

"Doing it for a couple hours a day doesn't take very much time and it's fun, but when I sort of sit back and see all of the people I've helped, that's when i feel like I've learned the most," said Follmer

It's a lesson we could all learn; one taught by a 13-year-old with a sewing machine.

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