Barbara Gingerich’s front yard has become the talk of the town. Whether you’re walking, running, biking or driving down Eighth Street, you won’t miss her colorful operation.

A small white sign in the grass reads “FREE MASKS.” Meanwhile, a homespun clothesline hangs between two trees — and on it, over a dozen handmade masks sway in the wind.

The initial recommendation for face coverings to combat COVID-19 came in March of 2020, and since then, Gingerich has been supplying the community with different patterned masks.

“It was at a time when there was a shortage of commercial masks,” Gingerich said. “Everyone has a feeling of helplessness in the midst of disaster and it just felt like this was something we could do to help.”

“There was a while when I was making about a dozen masks a day, but it’s lessened from there,” Gingerich said.

Gingerich named a number of people who have contributed to her operation. None more important that her dear friend on the next street over, Christine Guth.

“She’s been a workhorse,” Gingerich added. “She’s made more than 2,000 masks since we’ve started.”

One day, a woman stopped by and rang Gingerich’s doorbell. She told her that she was getting masks for her family in Warsaw.

“This is when I realized that this thing was expanding a little bit beyond where we thought,” Gingerich said.

But it didn’t stop there.

“A couple weeks later, somebody came by explaining that they were getting masks to send to their family in Mexico,” she recalled. “Then I thought, okay, now we have an international operation.”

Word-of-mouth advertising has been a powerful tool in garnering the customers to visit Gingerich’s clothesline on 8th Street. Goshen College students are some of Gingerich’s most frequent visitors and as an alumni, she’s glad to see her gifts being appreciated by students.

Senior accounting major, Claire Rauck, is among the many students who have visited Gingerich’s house on Eighth Street.

“I was on a bike ride with friends who had heard about the masks and suggested that we go down and get one,” Rauck said. “All of the masks were so cute and I can only imagine how much they have helped people in our local community.”

In the middle of a global pandemic and a very turbulent year, the small act of kindness Gingerich started a year ago hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Gingerich and company have received a lot of support and gratitude from the community. Oftentimes, people will leave thank you notes or a dollar or two on the clothesline. Gingerich pulled out a handful of cards that were given to her by children in the neighborhood.

One card read, “Thank you for leaving masks out so people can get a mask if they don’t have one and thank you for making the masks to keep us safe.”

Gingerich and Guth had no idea how big their operation would grow, but they’re glad that they’re able to make a positive impact in such a difficult time.