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Hand-sewn masks constructed by Dr. Erica Perlman. PHOTO COURTESY OF ERICA PERLMAN

Dr. Perlman makes masks for community members

By Brandon Walker EBS LOCAL EDITOR

BIG SKY – On April 15, Big Sky Eyes owner and optometrist Dr. Erica Perlman pivoted, joining the ranks of others that have taken to their sewing machines to make masks for themselves and others. After Center for Disease Control and Prevention directives suggested clinics accept only in-person office visits deemed essential, Dr. Perlman took action. In addition to accepting patients for essential visits, on her business Instagram account, she posted an offer for anyone in the Big Sky community in need of a face mask to contact her and when completed retrieve a free handmade mask from Big Sky Eyes. 

“As a healthcare provider I started to think ‘What else can I do to try to help the community stay healthy’ and so that’s when…I started posting that I could make masks,” Dr. Perlman said. “I, thankfully, learned how to sew back when I was a kid in high school, so you know it was a skill that I hadn’t used in quite a while.”

She dusted off her sewing machine and got to work making more than one hundred masks for community members—she stopped keeping track after reaching triple digits.  

Dr. Perlman sewing face masks for Big Sky community members. PHOTO COURTESY OF ERICA PERLMAN

“Being a healthcare provider it’s in my blood to help,” she said. “That’s why I went into the field.”

Dr. Perlman described that she has received two waves of mask orders, each correlating with the Instagram posts on her businesses Instagram account. Currently she is caught up with all the requests she has received and continues to complete masks on an as-needed basis. 

It took some time and ingenuity to get her mask making process off the ground. When Dr. Perlman began, she found that many necessary items to construct face masks were in short supply, leading to a shift to the use of hair ties instead of elastic straps and donations from community members.

Upon completion, recipients of the masks unsuccessfully insisted on providing Dr. Perlman with donations for her efforts as she turned them down. Grateful, newly mask-donning community members turned to other creative measures to show their appreciation. From bottles of wine to banana bread and even pizza, Dr. Perlman witnessed the effects of her actions.

“Some people did say that in my behalf they donated to Big Sky Relief fund, so that was really nice, but by no means expected,” Dr. Perlman said. “…These are scary times for all of us and it’s important for us to show love and support for people.” 

Inspired by the same feeling of love and support that she described, when she and her husband, Ryan Wilson, relocated to Big Sky last fall, Dr. Perlman jumped at the opportunity to assist her neighbors. 

“I feel like everyone was all about making me part of the community and so you know part of that is I want to give back,” Dr. Perlman said. “…It just makes me feel like I’m part of something and I love that. That’s why we moved here, that’s why we, you know, opened up the practice here, and that’s why we want this to be our permanent home.”

Dr. Perlman continues her efforts on behalf of the close community that she holds dear, accepting all donations of supplies, including hair ties and fabrics. To avoid points of contact with mask recipients, Dr. Perlman simply tapes the completed masks, in a Ziploc bag, to the front door of Big Sky Eyes and notifies individuals that their mask is ready to be picked up.

Masks taped to the door of Big Sky Eyes awaiting their new owners. PHOTO COURTESY OF ERICA PERLMAN

“I always think of that Mr. Rogers quote, ‘When things go bad look for the helpers.’ I always hope that I can be a helper,” she said.

Dr. Erica Perlman of Big Sky Eyes—simply stated: A helper.

“I just hope that all of us can get through this together and I know Big Sky can because we are a tight community and people do lend a hand when people need it,” she said

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