Staff and Volunteers Make Masks for all Employees

Posted May 7, 2020
keeper wearing mask
Lissa Browning made masks for herself and other keepers in her department. This one features red pandas (her favorite).

When Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden leadership made the decision that all employees would be required to wear masks, volunteers and staff got busy to make enough for each person to have two. Some are animal themed, some celebrate the botanical side of the Zoo, and some are made out of whatever fabric pattern the dozens of people sewing them happen to have.

Video of mask making | photos

“They’re all unique and made according to CDC guidelines,” said Cincinnati Zoo director Thane Maynard. “The head of our volunteer department made mine. Who knew that we had so many crafty people on staff!”

In total, over 1,000 masks have been made and donated by employees and volunteers. This allows the Zoo to stay focused on caring and feeding animals, horticulture, facilities and all other essential functions without worrying about how to acquire and pay for masks for staff.

“Our volunteers have so many talents and truly want to help the Zoo in any way they can,” said Cincinnati Zoo volunteer manager Mollie O’Neil. “Since they can’t be at the Zoo right now, sewing masks is a great way for many to stay engaged, use their creativity, and know they are making a difference.”

O’Neil is one of many staff members who has contributed to the production of 200+ masks. Others include zookeepers from the insect, hippo, and cheetah departments. Darlene Koenig, the aunt of a keeper on the Zoo’s bird team, has donated 806 masks and is still making more!

“It takes a village, and we’ve got one,” said Maynard. “We appreciate our staff, volunteers and everyone in our community who has supported us through this very difficult time.”