One National Security Agency (NSA) employee refuses to believe she can’t bring about positive change, even when faced with the COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions.
Susan “Sue” Boyd, retired from the Air Force, found herself at home like many of her fellow NSA coworkers, navigating the challenges of quarantine.
“I was worried about family and friends once we were in quarantine,” Boyd said. “I was worried about my senior neighbors and family and my friends who work in hospitals, so I tried to find a way to help them even though [some of them] are long distance.”
Understanding the requirement of citizens to wear face coverings in public venues when the mandate arose from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines early in the timeline of the pandemic, Boyd decided she would put her sewing skills to work by making masks that she could give out for free to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“It was a great way to get a handle on the situation. I needed some way to make sure people I care about were taken care of,” she said.
To Boyd’s surprise, her face coverings became well sought-after, eventually being requested by more of her friends and family. She decided to dedicate herself to this effort and began crafting face coverings for front line medical personnel at local hospitals, at-risk seniors, veteran organizations, and even military personnel serving overseas.
“I was just going to make them for family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors, but it just kept going. Someone else would tell me they work at a hospital and needed some face coverings. Veterans overseas who were deployed needed some, so I kept making them,” Boyd said. “At the beginning, it took me a while to figure out how to make the face coverings. It was a long process. I can make them much faster now. However, I do make them in batches, doing one stage at a time before moving to the next. I went from making a small amount to about 70 in a week.”
Her process quickly progressed, and her face coverings evolved through three versions: an initial version that tied behind the head, a second version with elastic ear loops, and eventually the final version featuring adjustable ear loops. After receiving design ideas suggesting different patterns, Boyd tried them out and refined her process even more, soliciting feedback from her friends on how to make mask-wearing more enjoyable.
“I did some basic black or tan for the military. Then I had different designs with animals or sports. Navy/Air Force fabric just to make it more interesting than a plain white mask,” she explained. “I figured we have to wear the face coverings, I might as well make it a bit more fun. So I tried out some fabric choices for a few friends. I made a bunch of Halloween face coverings for co-workers, their families, students, nurses' patients, and children, just to make it fun.”
Boyd made a face covering using hockey fabric for her chief, Justin Del Rosario, who also founded the NSA hockey team.
“I’m happy that somebody would take their sewing machine skills to good use, especially during this unpredictable time of COVID-19.” Del Rosario said.
Boyd also shared her masks with coworkers outside of her branch.
“I know Sue from working with her. We're not in the same organization, but we have had a fantastic cross-collaboration effort due to mission overlap,” Marge Prestfeldt said. “Sue is tremendous and doesn't like the spotlight, but in her day-to-day work at the Agency, she gives it her all, and she did the same with making the face coverings. My children and several people in my division now have face coverings thanks to her.”
Boyd’s efforts have even reached the NSA's partners overseas, showing the scope of her efforts and the appreciation those within and outside of the agency have had along the way — truly embodying the spirit of giving back.