Elisa Beckett-Flores with some of the masks she has made.
DANBURY, Connecticut — When COVID-19 arrived, some area residents sought to relieve the sense of helplessness by finding a way to be proactive in helping to protect their neighbors. One Western Connecticut State University alumna, Elisa Beckett-Flores, used a lifelong skill — sewing — to create and donate masks to the community at a time when masks were in short supply. During the past year, she sewed and donated more than 2,000 masks, and as a result, has been designated as a hero by the WCSU Alumni Association for her contributions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Beckett-Flores was nominated by WCSU Alumni Association Board Member Kay Schreiber.
A New Fairfield resident, Beckett-Flores graduated from WCSU in 2003 with a B.A. in Communications and Theatre Arts, and a minor in History. She learned to sew from her mother and great-grandmother, and as a theatre major, had to help with costumes as part of her activity credits and other theatre classes.
“I have always loved crafting, but had not really sewn anything in a major way since college,” Beckett-Flores said. “I have quilted and made a few small stuffed animals for my daughter and younger cousins.”
About a year ago, she started sewing masks for her family and close friends.
“I found an easy pattern and as I made them, more and more people asked me to help them out. I decided to make a batch of 50 masks to donate to Danbury Hospital. I was just happy to be able to help in some way. My 5-year-old daughter liked to help pick out the fabric.”
Beckett-Flores posted a picture on Facebook about her first donation and many friends, family members and even other alumni she knew started to ask her if she could help them or the organizations they were a part of. That led to her making masks for multiple hospitals, nursing homes, food pantries, seniors in her town, town public works employees, visiting nurses, immune compromised families, the Brookfield YMCA, school kids, teachers, first responders, front line employees, families with special needs and more.
“The reason I started was because I had to find a constructive outlet for my time and energy with all the constant news about Covid coming in,” she explained. “I was not a nurse and I was home taking care of my family, but I needed to do more. So, I just kept sewing. I cannot believe that it has been a year since this started and how much there has been a need for reusable, washable masks. I kept doing it because there was a need and I had the ability to help. My favorite donation idea was the brainchild of one of the town leaders in New Fairfield. She noticed that many senior citizens didn’t have masks that could be washed and finding disposable ones could be hard especially at the beginning of this. So, she asked a few local mask makers to rotate making batches of masks and she stood outside out Stop & Shop to hand them out for free to seniors during the senior shopping hours.”
Beckett-Flores is a third-generation alumna who has had multiple family members attend WCSU. Her maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother both are graduates. Her grandmother worked at the school as the switchboard operator for many years, and Beckett-Flores used to visit her on campus as a little girl and play outside her office in Old Main. An aunt and her younger brother also are both alumni.
As a student, Beckett-Flores served as the Student Government Association president for two years, as well as serving as vice president, justice and senator. She met her husband, Joshua Flores, at an SGA meeting. Beckett-Flores also was the editor-in-chief, sports editor and production manager for the Echo. She was a member of Center Stage and participated in CSU off-Broadway where the one-act play she wrote was performed in the showcase. She was the senior class president in 2003 and spoke at WCSU’s Centennial commencement.
Beckett-Flores received an award of distinction from the CSU Board of Trustees for her dedication the student body as well as other leadership awards during her time at WCSU. She also served three terms on the Alumni Board of Directors where she served as the parliamentarian and chaired the Bylaws committee. So it’s no surprise that when the pandemic hit, she sought a way to be of service to her community.
Reflecting on the past year, Beckett-Flores said, “I sewed more than 2,000 masks. Most of them were donated or those I didn’t donate I only asked for people to make a donation so I could continue to buy materials (like elastic) to keep making masks to donate. All the money I received from people went back into making more masks to donate.
“When I started making masks, I never would have imagined that there was going to be such a need or I would make so many,” she said. “I was so proud when I made my first 100. I am just happy that I was able to help people and never thought I would have to make so many.”
The WCSU Alumni Association is looking for WCSU alumni who have made tremendous contributions to their communities. The Alumni Association will award the Distinguished Alumni Service Award to alumni who have gone above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic. This could mean providing community support, putting in extra time as an essential worker, and so on. When possible, the Alumni Association hopes to honor all recipients with an on-campus celebration.
For more information, contact the Office of University Relations at email@example.com.
Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high-quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.