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  • Heather Osteraa

TWS Helpers Rise to the Occasion

Updated: May 18, 2021

TWS Staff, Company members, and Alumni are keeping busy on their own to help others in their communities during the COVID-19 crisis – we’re calling them TWS Helpers! This collection is a testament to the “community first” attitude we strive to cultivate through our programs at The Western Stage. Well done, friends, and keep up the good work!

Let’s keep this going! If you’re a TWS Company member/Alunni, tell us how you’re helping! Send your story to to be added to the blog!

Melissa Chin-Parker, TWS Artistic Program Director, and her front-room-turned-sewing-room for making masks. “Early on TWS was asked to join a collective of local theatres in donating time and materials to a joint mask-making effort, but all supplies, materials and equipment are College District property so we are not authorized to make those donations. I was very happy to find out at a recent TWS staff meeting that several of us were pitching in on our own to create supplies of masks for the medical personnel, first-responders, and our community! It’s reminiscent of sewing and quilting circles of our past.”

Cheryl Worthy, Company Manager & Box Office Manager, was asked to make cards to be

sent to the elderly in convalescent homes with a group called Cards for Humanity. “Because of the SIP they have no one visiting them. The message in the card was to read ‘Thinking of you’ and signed by your first name only. The group was collecting 2800 cards and asked each person to make 10 cards each. I was so thrilled to be of service. I created 50 just in case they fell short. It was an honor to be a part of this card drive.”

Costume Designer, Maggie Heaman, has turned her home into a PPE factory for making masks and bouffant caps, which she donates to Valley Medical Center foundation in Santa Clara.

Wardrobe Manager, Becca Browdy, has been helping her mom and two younger brothers with online learning. “The boys are in their last month of kindergarten and are adjusting to using chrome books and webcams instead of being in class with their teacher that they adore. With dad at work, I sit with one of the boys while mom sits with the other, helping them with the technology.”

Costume shop stitcher, Marilyn Harder, making masks for Natividad Hospital in Salinas.

Jeff Hinderschied, TWS actor and theatre producer in King City, has been keeping quite busy in South County: “Trying to stay positive, while trying to also be creative with our time. The South County HS seniors have a FB page started by some parents called ‘Adopt a Senior.’ People ‘adopt’ someone and they bring them gifts and make them nice things and drop them off throughout the month! My daughter has received some incredible boxes, baskets, gift cards, clothing, and other cool items. One family even bought my entire family Olive Garden! Personally, I have been officially trained in PPE and Shelter Management. A shelter for COVID-19 positive individuals has been put up at San Lorenzo Park and I will be one of the disaster relief workers at the shelter. We have had lots of good family time such as flying kites, hiking, and building a backyard playground! As a Social Worker, I have been going to homes in full gear to check on kids and make sure they are okay. Sol Treasures did a fun virtual Sing Along for a few weeks that had a good turn out.”

Actor Mindy Pedlar and her artist friend (and frequent TWS audience member, Monika Modest) were enjoying a walk in their neighborhood and noticed several hearts drawn in chalk on people’s driveways. “Some driveways had positive messages like ‘Together we can do this.’ Feeling inspired (and wanting something to do) we decided to make some clay hearts, glaze them and pass them out to our neighbors, particularly the elderly ones who are not getting out much due to health concerns. We had such fun making the hearts and even more for fun distributing them. The response has been wonderful. Everyone felt uplifted by their surprise gift. On the back we wrote ‘You gotta have heart, You gotta have hope’ – lyrics from the musical Damn Yankees. Seemed to fit!

Actor Carl Twisselman and his wife have been making sandwiches for Dorothy’s Kitchen. “My wife and I are members of First Presbyterian Church in Monterey, and the church has for years provided sandwiches on the third Sunday of every month. Prior to the lockdown, parishioners got together between services on those Sundays, and someone would deliver the made sandwiches to Dorothy’s. Since the lockdown, couples have been taking turns constructing sandwiches at their homes and delivering. Last Sunday my wife and I made 200 cheese and bologna sandwiches, with mayo and mustard packets included in each baggie, and another couple made an additional 200. The sandwiches are given out as takeout bagged meals after the regular noon meal that Dorothy’s serves.”

Mimi Niesen, long-time TWS supporter and patron, has been putting her art and sewing skills to good use! “Along with many others, I’m on a card-making toot, for the many nursing home residents who can’t have visitors during SIP. Another project I’ve been involved in has been the making of 90 donated fabric masks. To date, 20 went to a beloved family doctor friend, 12 to a neighbor/vintner. Cherry Bean requested 10, plus individuals who requested them. The beat goes on! Some have traded for these.”

Rhonda Kirkpatrick, Costume Designer, who now resides in Maine, has organized a local mask-making group. “We have made nearly 1,500 masks for the local hospitals, nursing homes, food cupboards, public safety personnel, the Alliance on Aging, and local residents. In a town of 4,200 people that’s a pretty good number! All of our masks have been given without charge. We have also received around $400 in donations for our efforts and have contributed all to the food bank and our local women’s shelter. Our county was the last in New England to report any positive cases of Covid-19.”

Nona Childress, Musician and Patron, has shown what it means to be an outstanding neighbor, shopping and delivering groceries and supplies to her neighbors and organizing outdoor concerts! “We’re called to help each other out, and people have brought me supplies when I couldn’t go out. The urge to make music is very strong – I’m lucky enough to live with other musicians… so it’s a logical move to take our rehearsals outside since we NEED to play together anyway (coping mechanism). I’m an essential worker as a microbiologist, so I’m lucky enough to still have a paycheck. If I know of a need I can fill, helping out is a no-brainer. Bringing twist ties over to people making masks, or screw top buckets to encampments for storage, instead of throwing them away – well, that just makes sense economically, ecologically, and morally. I’m no visual artist but I’m up to chalking smiley faces, rainbows, stars and short messages on the sidewalks [for passersby to enjoy and for the folks who wish to enjoy the outdoor rehearsals at a safe social distance]. Nothing more elaborate!

I know others are watching out for my mom when I can’t be nearby, and helping out my local neighbors in need is a way to pay that forward. Besides, the payback has been great – smiles, cards, even homemade pizza on a night I’m too tired to cook myself! Everybody wins!”

Laura Mussell (Williams), former TWS Costume Shop Intern, now resides in Texas with her family, where she started her own handmade business (The Foxes Tail) and home-schools her daughter. Laura created the facebook group ‘Care Mask Covers for Covid-19’ in early March after her friend, Jocelyn Peterson, requested her sewing help making masks for her local physician friend. “I created the group to field interest in the area as the request for masks was more than I could complete quickly on my own.” The group quickly grew to over 4000 members nation wide! Jocelyn was instrumental in helping with the tech and PR side of the the group, letting Laura focus on sewing mask covers, testing patterns, and creating tutorials to help other sewers. “The outpouring of people wanting to help was huge; so were the requests for mask covers from clinics, hospitals, law enforcement and more. The group teamed up with Make-A-Mask Austin to help with safe collection and distribution of the mask covers. The combined groups have collected and distributed over 12,000 mask covers in the Austin area and inspired thousands more to be made around the country.”

Jay Lasnik “grew up” at The Western Stage, working with props and performing with the acting company for many years. Today, Jay is part of the Penn State Costume Shop Masking Masking project. “We are supplying masks to essential workers on campus and to the Penn State and State College, PA area community. I think we’ve made over 2,000 right now and I’ve made about 200 or 300. I’ve included a picture of my friend’s carport where we do socially-distanced fabric and finished mask exchanges. I am currently the Props Master for the School of Theatre at Penn Sate University.”

Don’t stop there, folks! If you’re feeling inspired, it’s not too late to take action (big or small) and send in your story to be part of the blog! Email

**The views and opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Western Stage**

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