SHERRARD — Sherrard student Charli Dirksen is finishing her fifth grade school year at home — like every other child in Illinois. While each is experiencing loss — time with peers, teachers and in-class learning — Dirksen ventured to make the most of it by helping others.
It developed as an idea to help protect her 14 year old sister, Jorja, who has a rare genetic disorder — it grew into an endeavor to help countless others. In mid-April she began working on mask-making each day after she completed her remote learning schoolwork and dance classes.
"It makes me happy that I am helping others to stay safe," Charli said.
It started with her father, Chad Dirksen, who works at Lowe’s in Moline. Concerned about bringing home the illness — Chad asked his daughter to make him one. Then, his co-workers wanted masks. Charli then made 175-plus masks, one for every employee there. It expanded to another 200 masks for family and friends. Many donated funds as a "thank you," though she and her parents tried to refuse.
With those funds she was able to make more masks — this time for the Viola Food Pantry who requested two for every family that receives food items.
"I then kept thinking of other people I knew that needed them and people kept requesting them," she said.
Charli said it takes about 10 minutes to make one mask; she spends four to five hours in the afternoon and evening completing several batches at a time.
"I like to sew and my mom mentioned making homemade masks, and I was bored one day and made one," she said.
Her mother, Jennifer Dirksen, said Charli took up sewing by default — as apart of her family heritage — it’s a skill passed down from her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother.
"Charli took up sewing about a year and half ago making scrunchies. She then started making them to sell them, and started a business called The Sassy Sassquatch — Sassquatch is a nickname she has because she is sassy. She then found other things to sew online like keychains, bows and bookmarks.
"I’ve had a big stock pile of fabric, it’s in every nook and cranny of this house I think … Charli has the same love of fabric. Her favorite place to go is JoAnn Fabrics," said Jennifer.
For Charli, the project has taught her much more than how to sew a mask pattern.
"She’s learning a lot of skills with this ... time management, math skills, how to prioritize. It’s also helped with her people skills, self esteem, and confidence, which she struggles with," Jennifer said the project also helps her focus. "Charli struggles with ADHD. She gets so excited when I tell her she has an order. It makes me so proud that Charli is being so selfless in helping others."
Ten-year-old Charli has this to say to her peers, "Everyone has a talent, you just need to find it, and use it to help others."
Charli’s masks are now available for purchase at Mississippi Marketplace in Davenport, where her grandmother has a booth (4004 W. Kimberly Rd Suite B). The antique mall/shopping center owner contacted the Dirksens and asked Charli to be the mask provider, since so many were requesting them, according to Jennifer.