Inspiring Stories

Patsy Lynn LaFlam: Creativity in Quarantine

Patsy Lynn LaFlam isn’t letting social distancing prevent her from using her creativity to help others and spread joy. Her sewing skills and eye for photography have come in handy as she waits out stay-at-home orders in upstate New York. She’s already given out hundreds of hand sewn masks and greeting cards featuring her photography to friends and strangers alike and has no plans to stop.

What inspired you to start making masks?

Once the virus started, everyone was desperately looking for masks. Even my sister who works at the hospital was looking for them, I knew I wanted to help but wasn’t sure how. Then our local paper, Press-Republincan, printed a guide on how to make the masks yourself. I already had four sewing machines and cloth to make a quilt with. So I just went to the store to buy elastic and then got to work.

That’s amazing! What inspired you to start making so many?

Most everyone in my family is an essential worker, so I started by making masks for all of them. Then I was chatting with Jamie, the Program Assistant for Senior Planet North Country, and she mentioned she was having trouble finding masks for kids aged four and under.

So I went back to the store and bought fabric kids would like, resized the pattern and started making masks for kids. I like to make the kids’ masks nice and colorful, with fun patterns. I started making the adult sized ones in fun colors too- I even try to match my mask with my outfit nowadays!

The masks turned out to be quite popular, so I kept making them. Now, I keep about a dozen in my car at all times and hand them out to anyone who needs one. I let people know that they have been washed and disinfected, of course! I’ve even started giving people packs of 10 or 15 masks so they can hand them out. I love that when I walk around Plattsburgh, I see people wearing my masks!

Do you think you’ll keep making the masks?

Of course! I have no plans to stop. It helps people out and gives me something to do. Plus, it’s easy. I can whip up 10 in less than half an hour. I love to sew but my other main passion is photography.

Has Senior Planet helped you pursue photography further?

Absolutely! Senior Planet helped me look at my photos in a different way with your photography classes. You also helped me find an editing program to edit my photos at home which was a game changer. Since taking those classes I’ve been able to use my photographs to create other goods. Last year I did a calendar about the Adirondacks with my photographs and Christmas cards. They all sold out at craft fairs! 

But I don’t usually sell my cards and calendars. Like the masks, I like to give them away. I even put together boxes of a variety of cards I design (thank you cards, birthday cards, etc.) with a gold pen and give them to my family and friends. The cards have turned out to be very popular during social-distancing.

What initially drew you to Senior Planet?

I turned 66 and retired, I assumed I would be bored not working. Then I read about Senior Planet in the paper and thought I would give it a try. I was already pretty computer literate but I figured you could teach me something I didn’t know. Next thing I know, I’ve taken every class you offered, even repeating a few of them!

What was your favorite class?

Probably “Work Out!” where each member was loaned a Fitbit. Our class of 12 decided to walk the distance from Plattsburgh, NY to San Pablo, CA (over 2,900 miles) and back over 10 weeks. It was funny, we all had to figure out how far we each needed to walk each day. It gives you a goal and you don’t want to disappoint anyone else in the class so we were all motivated to make sure to get our steps in each day. We all encouraged each other. And after 10 weeks, we beat our goal!

What does aging with attitude mean to you?

To me it means being the best I can be as I get older. Age means nothing if you forget the boundaries society sets for older adults. If you want to try something new and exciting, do it. Only you know what you can accomplish with your attitude and an open mind. Every year I try something new. I hike, kayak, own a motorcycle (a Twinstar 250, low rider) doing these kinds of things keeps me feeling younger and happier now, then in my twenties. It also means being nice and kind to everyone, whether they are a CEO or the janitor, you treat people the same always.



3 responses to “Patsy Lynn LaFlam: Creativity in Quarantine

  1. Thank you Pasty Lynn for your story/SP story and thank you to your essential working family too!

    Am proud 2 of my niece Lauren who startd making masks when COVID-19 came along w/her great-grandmother’s sewing machine, upstate in Accord, NY:)

    What energy you have and give!!!

  2. What a nice woman. I really enjoyed this article. I am curious about the fitbits. Who loaned them to the program? Fitbit themselves? Was the total miles walked 4800?
    I love this idea and would like to try it with the seniors in my neighborhood. Would you let me know the formula you that you used to get to how much they should walk? I’m thinking 4800mi. divided by 12ppl divided by 70 days?? Thank you so much for any information. Patsy Lynn LaFlam you are a hero! Ty. Jackie

  3. Great story and a great heart to look after her community. I love your attitude and drive.
    I’ve made masks too mostly for family members around the province. (Ontario). It takes me about 30-40 minutes to make one mask though. I have a question for Patsy Lynn LaFlam. How do you make 10 masks in under a half an hour? Share your secret!
    Plattsburgh is lucky to have people like you!

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