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The Amish Pandemic Sewing Frolic

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It was Friday, April 10th, 2020. The pandemic was really starting to roar. PPE was scarce and the supply chains were already breaking down. Every hospital was scrambling to find enough masks, gowns and face shields. It was already every state, every institution for itself.

It was everywhere in the papers. Page 1, Page 2, Page 3. On Page 9 of The New York Times, dateline: Sugarcreek, Ohio a headline caught our eye: “’Abe, Make a Sewing Frolic.’ In Ohio The Amish Take on the Coronavirus.”

This isolated, centuries-old, self-reliant community was rising to the occasion and collaborating with the world outside to fill the PPE needs of the massive Cleveland Clinic and beyond. The story inspired us. We headed to Sugarcreek with a microphone.

In the attempt to record this story in Amish country in the midst of social distancing and the ever deepening pandemic, a new collaboration was born — artist Laurie Anderson, Ohio-born designer Stacy Hoover, Outskirts Productions, Ohio cinematographer Erick Stoll, and producer Evan Jacoby all joined with The Kitchen Sisters, Nathan Dalton and Jim McKee to bring these voices to air.

Deep thanks to all in the Amish community of Sugarcreek, Charm and New Bedford, Ohio who welcomed us. Further thanks to The Cleveland Clinic Innovation Team and its many partners and to Dr. Charles Miller, who opened the door for us at The Clinic.

We hope you found your Frolic in 2020, a coming together of people in your family, your pod, your community to raise the barn, sew the masks, feed hungry children, save the restaurant, march in protest — whatever it was that needed more than one set of hands.

Special thanks to Elizabeth Williamson and The New York Times for graciously sharing her article with us. And to NYT photographer Erin Schaff.

The Kitchen Sisters Present… is part of the Radiotopia podcast network from PRX. A parade of episodes awaits you there. Thank you for listening and for subscribing.

Funded by: The National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for The Arts and Listener Contributions to The Kitchen Sisters Productions. Thank you for your spirit and support.