Campus Life

University Police employee sews masks for first responders, community members

Torie Shapter, Penn State employee, sewed masks for first responders and community members during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

ERIE, Pa. – The initial plan was to only sew a couple of masks, one for her and her husband, a local police officer, to better equip them during the COVID-19 pandemic. She followed a pattern she found online and sewed them at home.

Torie Shapter – administrative support assistant for University Police and Public Safety at Penn State Beaver, Behrend, Dubois and Shenango – had some leftover fabric, and she thought she could assist Penn State police officers by adding to the personal protective equipment (PPE) supply already provided by Penn State. So, she kept sewing. In total, she crafted 25 masks for Penn State officers.

With more fabric in hand, Shapter shared on social media that she was creating masks and asked if anyone was in need. Some friends requested one or two, but another needed more. The friend’s husband, an essential worker, along with his colleagues were reusing paper masks. Shapter sent over 10 masks.

Shapter’s friend, Katherine Sheridan, received four masks for her family and a friend to ensure they had what they needed to run to the grocery store or leave the house as necessary.

“Torie’s generosity is a prime example of how much good we are seeing in our community lately,” Sheridan said. “These times are so scary, and quite frankly this quarantine is tough for so many reasons, but then you see people rallying around their community and their loved ones. It is a great reminder that we can get through anything together.”

The giving is a natural extension of what Shapter does every day to serve the community as an employee with University Police and Public Safety, where the top priority is to protect and serve Penn State students and employees.

“I'm just happy to help,” said Shapter, who is working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic. “I love projects and this has kept me busy after my 10-month-old son goes to bed at night.”

Once a week, Shapter makes a trip to the post office to ship masks for recipients out of town. She also conducts local “porch drops.” She does not charge for her work, instead simply encouraging recipients to pay it forward, such as finding a way to support local healthcare workers and first responders. One recipient made a donation on Shapter’s behalf to one of her favorite charitable organizations.

“Everyone is very appreciative and respectful of the social distancing rules,” Shapter said.

Initially, the masks were all navy blue, but Shapter’s mother and a friend have since donated a variety of fabrics.

“My mom loves to sew and has a lot of fabric on-hand, so she gave be a bunch of fun patterns,” Shapter said.

Anthony Budris, deputy police chief for campuses in Northwestern Pennsylvania and Shapter’s supervisor, said, “We applaud Torie’s effort, which is a bright spot during this challenging time and demonstrates Penn State’s values, specifically ‘community,’ as she is working for the betterment of our University and the communities we serve.”

'We Are' stories
The “We Are” spirit is perhaps more important than ever before, and Penn Staters everywhere are coming together in new and amazing ways. During these challenging times, our community is continuing to realize Penn State’s commitment to excellence through acts of collaboration, thoughtfulness and kindness. As President Eric Barron has written on Digging Deeper, this truly is a “We Are” moment — and we want to hear your “We Are” stories. 

Visit to share how you or other Penn Staters are supporting each other to overcome the collective challenges presented by the novel coronavirus. We are! 


Last Updated August 06, 2020