Upper Arlington resident Michelle Salsberry was at home one day in early April with her husband and two children, adhering to social-distancing and stay-at-home guidelines because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, when she decided to sew masks for a friend who was starting cancer treatment and couldn't avoid hospitals.

CORRECTION: As of April 27, Michelle Salsberry had donated a portion of her more than 600 masks to approximately 150 health-care workers and had donated more than $1,500 to essential workers. Because of a reporter’s error, the print and earlier online version of this story incorrectly detailed Salsberry's donations.

Upper Arlington resident Michelle Salsberry was at home one day in early April with her husband and two children, adhering to social-distancing and stay-at-home guidelines because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, when she decided to sew masks for a friend who was starting cancer treatment and couldn't avoid hospitals.

Then she saw on Facebook that two of her friends' daughters, one from Boston and one in central Ohio, were sewing and donating masks to medical professionals in their community, and she resolved to do something similar.

"I thought, 'Oh, that'll be something to occupy my time,' " Salsberry, 45, said. "I'm a marketing consultant, so some of our client work is very slow right now."

Since then, her efforts have expanded.

Salsberry initially started donating her masks, which she makes in a variety of different patterns, to health-care providers.

But she eventually branched out and started selling them to the community for $5 each when it became apparent that it was being recommended by state leaders for everyone to wear a mask in public.

Salsberry said she decided to reinvest her revenue into the community by donating $100 and a thank-you card as a gift to a worker at the Kroger store on Chambers Road as a token of appreciation.

"I needed to do something with that money," she said. "It didn't feel right keeping it."

Salsberry since has received a flurry of Facebook suggestions on the Upper Arlington Ohio Discussion Forum for essential workers to receive gifts from the mask proceeds.

Demand became so overwhelming that at one point, she was sewing for 8 to 12 hours a day, and she still is making about 50 masks a day, she said.

Other than the cost of materials, which runs about $200 a week, Salsberry said, she donates all the revenue.

Her mask production and donation fund continued to increase the more visible her donations became.

"Every time I have more money to give, I go out in the community and give it away to unsuspecting, yet deserving, folks that are still working in our communities," Salsberry said. "Once people saw that I was giving away the money, they wanted to participate more.

"So they were either asking for more masks or just donating money to the general fund. It's definitely been more than I anticipated, but it's been a nice creative outlet and a way to give back."

As of April 27, Salsberry said, she had made more than 600 masks, had donated some to approximately 150 medical workers and had donated more than $1,500 to essential workers."I think the first five, I probably almost cried more than they did. It's pretty awesome," she said. "They're always surprised. They're always very grateful."

One of the recipients was Colin Gawel, owner of Colin's Coffee at 3714 Riverside Drive in Upper Arlington, who received a gift from her the morning of April 29.

Gawel said although business has begun to pick up a little, it initially was slow and uncertain in the first few weeks of the pandemic.

"The first two weeks were nerve-wracking," he said. "You didn't really know what was going on."

But Gawel said the layout of his shop is spread out enough to enable people to practice social distancing when picking up their coffee, and he wanted to remain open for his customers.

"I wanted to be here to make sure people could come down and get a cup of coffee," he said. "It's a part of their day."

Gawel said he was surprised when Salsberry showed up at his shop April 29 and was grateful for her generosity.

"It was completely unexpected and really thoughtful and really nice," he said. "It just kind of came out of nowhere."

Salsberry's said her donations aren't going to slow down any time soon.

"I'm going to donate until people stop ordering," she said.

sborgna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSteve