Suzette Pump Sews Masks, Sows Kindness

Chef, author, quilter, animal lover, volunteer, Port of Portland Police Department employee…Suzette Pump wears many hats and recently added “PDX carpet mask seamstress” to the list. When the pandemic created a demand for masks, Suzette’s commitment to community service, crafting and our airport led to the creation of 100 coveted PDX carpet face coverings – soon to be claimed by 100 lucky winners of the recent PDX People raffle.

Tell us a little about yourself – what is your background, your current role at the airport?

I am Italian and of course, love to cook. Last year, my Cherry Amaretto Cheesecake received a blue ribbon at the Clark County Fair, and I will soon be publishing a cookbook with my mother’s family recipes from her hometown of Venice, Italy.

I am a skilled jewelry maker, quilter and mom to two rescue pups and six farm chickens. I believe that creativity is a great way to bring people together and allows for development and growth that can be applied in all aspects of life.

In my current role, I am an administrative coordinator for the Port of Portland Police Department here at the airport. I bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to my position and recently obtained a master’s degree in Management and Organizational Leadership from an accelerated program with Western Governor’s University.

What does it mean to you to be a PDX employee?

To me, it means being part of a very large family. I view it as a continuation of service to my community and I am proud to be a part of this amazing organization.

In what ways has the pandemic influenced you?

I have always tried to focus on preparedness at home and thought I had a pretty good plan. I can honestly say that I did not expect things like toilet paper and paper towels to disappear from the market like they did. With the absence of hand sanitizer, I procured the necessary supplies and set out to make my own hand sanitizer. While the first few batches left a lot to be desired, I settled on a pretty good formula and have shared my new product with friends, family and my community. 

I (along with everyone) have had to adapt to change in every aspect of life, but throughout this pandemic two things have remained important to me:  family and community. Helping each other through this rapidly changing world and being kind to one another is even more important now.

What leads you to give to others?

Being of service to others, giving to others, community service, it’s all so much a part of who I am. I served as a neighborhood association board member and a citizen volunteer for the Vancouver Police Department. I hope that by sharing my passions through action, I can inspire others to seek out those things that bring them happiness. Kindness is contagious and I hope that is one of the things that spreads more in the future.

When did you start making PDX carpet face masks and why did you decide to make them?

Last year I had ordered PDX carpet fabric thinking it would be fun to incorporate it into a quilt or craft somehow. As the pandemic grew, I realized that my husband and I needed some masks, so it hit me…what better way to show my PDX spirit than to sport a PDX carpet mask. 

On April 7, 2020, two prototype masks were born. Like the hand sanitizer they were not perfect…but they did the job! Shortly after posting my very fun and stylish masks to Yammer, our Port employee social network, I received a lot of positive comments and interest in them. I began producing masks as requests came in and asked that folks donate to the Port’s employee donation program if they wanted to pay it forward.

You said you were willing, able and honored to make the 100 PDX carpet masks for PDX People – tell us more about your motivation for this project.

Essential workers, frontline staff and first responders are important, especially to the work that we do at PDX. They keep the lights on, the doors open and most importantly, they keep us safe. To be able to do something for them, to give back in some way even if it is something as small as a mask, is just so impactful for me. It is my own way to say, “Thank you, I appreciate you.” 

Did you have any unforeseen obstacles while making the masks?

My oldest sewing machine started acting strange and ended up at the repair shop for six weeks!  No worries I thought…I have a second, newer machine. Well, about 20 masks in, the machine experienced a critical mechanical fail, so I was forced to say goodbye to the machine I barely knew and ultimately used it as a trade-in towards a new industrial machine. Bring on more masks…I am industrial now!

How long did it take you to make all 100?

Not including time spent traveling to and from the sewing machine shop, it took a very full 40 hours!

How many masks in total have you made?

As of today (Oct. 14, 2020), I have made a total of 248 masks for PDX employees, friends, family and people in my community. Most exciting for me is that I just shipped out two PDX carpet masks to London!