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As director of Ball State University’s costume shop, Emily Ruiz is used to last second alterations. So, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Indiana, she quickly led her team in making medical masks for area nursing homes.

In the last few days, the costume shop in the Department of Theatre and Dance has created several hundred masks from cotton fabric. The team is addressing the needs of the medical community in east-central Indiana. Although the items are not the N95 masks recommended for protection against COVID-19, they offer wearers some protection from infections.

“We went from doing last-second alterations on costumes to knocking these out as fast as we could,” said Ruiz, who has been with the University for the past six years. “Our goal was 500, and we hit are close. Then, our job will be to make as many as we can for as long as we are needed.”

She has stated Project Benny: Masks for Muncie, a group of local stitchers that include Ball State retirees, current employees, students, and members of the community. The effort is part of a national movement of theatrical organizations helping meet a critical need.

 “We have already gone through the costume shop’s materials and are seeking more to keep our group working around the clock,” she said. “The requests keep rolling in. I suspect that we will play a role in helping the medical community for some time.”

Department Chair Bill Jenkins calls the efforts heroic as members of the costume shop, Ball State students, and others rise to the challenge.

“This is a perfect example of the Spirit of Beneficence here at Ball State,” he said. “Emily and her collaborators are showing how our University is about more than educating a student. We serve our neighbors.”

But for Ruiz and other members of Theatre and Dance, their work is much like the moments leading up to the start of a major production – full of high energy. They are taking the energy reserved for those crazy moments before the show starts and pouring it into their work.

“We are used to the hems and trims, coming together at the last second to solve costume problems so that the show goes on,” Ruiz said. “I am glad that we can make a difference.”