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Gonzaga team physician sews more than 1,000 masks during pandemic

Dr. Molly Gilbert, the team doctor for the Gonzaga men’s and women’s teams, is photographed on Feb. 27 in the training room during halftime of the Zags vs. San Diego game in the McCarthey Athletic Center.  (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
Dr. Molly Gilbert, the team doctor for the Gonzaga men’s and women’s teams, is photographed on Feb. 27 in the training room during halftime of the Zags vs. San Diego game in the McCarthey Athletic Center. (COLIN MULVANY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)
By Dan Thompson For The Spokesman-Review

It was quite a run for Molly Gilbert.

The Gonzaga team physician has sewn more than 1,000 masks during the pandemic. She started by making them for Bulldogs athletes. And then word spread and demand grew.

“It’s still fun,” Gilbert said this week from Indianapolis, where she is with the men’s basketball team during their NCAA Tournament run. “I can just relax when I come home from work and make some.”

At some point, “when I wasn’t looking,” Gilbert said, her husband repurposed her sewing table for his work. Brian Gilbert teaches in the environmental sciences program at the Community Colleges of Spokane.

“Well, I sort of did,” Brian Gilbert acknowledged. “I’ve been dabbling in research on bees, mostly, so I appropriated the table down there, put all my scopes on that table and I kind of stuffed all her stuff in the closet.

“But she got her retribution because she got the kitchen table.”

The table swap came with a perk for the mask maker: “If the Zags are on TV,” Gilbert said, “I can watch them.”

As a quilter, Gilbert said she usually has a good stash of fabric on hand, and early in the pandemic she noticed people were going to need masks – and they were going to need a lot of them very soon.

So, she acquired a supply of elastic, gathered her fabric, watched a do-it-yourself video on mask-making and started producing them. Soon she purchased some Gonzaga-patterned fabric, embraced her role as one of the program’s doctors and started to churn them out with a production time of about 10 minutes apiece.

When elastic became a hot commodity, she repurposed hair bands as a replacement, and she became a frequent shopper at JOANN fabric and craft stores.

All that mask-making has been in addition to her roles as a practicing family medicine doctor at Providence, the program director for Family Medicine Residency Spokane and her position with Gonzaga.

When GU athletes visited her for primary care throughout the summer and fall she gave them a homemade mask as if to say, “welcome to Gonzaga, it’s a pandemic,” she said.

She kept a supply of masks at her office, and pretty soon patients walking through the clinic started to ask if they could have one. Nurses at the office wanted one, too, such was the demand for masks that bore their hometown team’s logo. So she made more. And more. And more.

Demand grew beyond Spokane, and Gilbert began shipping boxes of them to her sister in Minnesota, a couple dozen per box – many of them with the more regionally apt Vikings fabric.

“I enjoy making them and giving them away,” she said. “People are usually happy to receive them.”

She made reversible masks to mark special occasions like Breast Cancer Awareness month, and a Christmas pattern with snowflakes for late December.

“It’s just amazing,” Brian Gilbert said. “She’s just an amazing person as far as her commitment to Gonzaga and especially to the teams. … She really loves being part of that, and she gives a lot of her time.”

Eventually supply caught up with demand, and now fewer people ask Molly Gilbert for masks. But she is happy that her vocation and her hobby intersected during the past year.

“I can probably take the sewing machine off the kitchen table,” Gilbert said. “Maybe I’ll just go back to making baby quilts and quilts for family members.”

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