Powell, Wert are Hillcrest Healthcare heroes

Diana FisherOur Town Health

When the call went out for face masks, Linda Wert and Shelia Powell cranked up their sewing machines.


The two Knoxville volunteers crafted more than 400 masks for front-line healthcare staff at Hillcrest Healthcare, which operates three skilled nursing, rehabilitation and long-term care facilities in Knoxville in the north, south and west communities.

“My mother always told me that sewing would be a skill I would use for life, and it has been,” Wert said.

“I’d been praying for God to let me do his work, and I believe through this project, my prayers were answered,” Powell said.

Hillcrest Healthcare made a public appeal for face masks as COVID-19 began its march across the country this spring, and the Centers for Disease Control advised that healthcare professionals could use cloth masks for protection.

Wert and Powell sewed so many masks that Hillcrest Healthcare shared some with other local medical facilities and sent others to healthcare practices in Nashville, Chicago, Florida and Texas.

Powell, a retired healthcare worker, has three daughters who work in healthcare. Powell started her career as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and retired after working 16 years in a dialysis clinic.

“I’m at peace when I’m sewing, and sometimes I sew all day,” Powell said.

Wert, a retired expeditor for an engineering firm, learned to sew from her mother and has made wedding gowns and prom dresses.

“Sewing these masks has given me purpose – a reason to get up in the morning,” Wert said. “It’s brought me so much joy and has connected and reconnected me with so many people.”

A hero is defined as someone who is greatly admired or who has noble qualities. Thank you Linda Wert and Shelia Powell for sharing your sewing talents and protecting our front-line staff. You both are Hillcrest Healthcare heroes.

Diana Fisher, BSW, LNHA, is director of business development at Hillcrest Healthcare.

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