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Quad-Citizen Award: Penny Hazen finds a soul is fed with needle and thread
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Quad-Citizen Award: Penny Hazen finds a soul is fed with needle and thread

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On the right side, just above the fold of her leather cut (vest), rests the name "Stitchezz.''

If ever there was a word to describe Penny Hazen, it's something sewing related, though you had better find time for "kind,'' "considerate,'' "caring'' and "hard-driving" when it comes to the betterment and welfare of those around her.

Because of her amazing spirit and tireless effort, Hazen has been nominated and named Quad-Citizen for the month of May. The Quad-Citizen Award is a partnership between the Quad-City Times and IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union to honor outstanding Q-C area residents who go above and beyond for their community.

On one side of her give-back world, Hazen, a Davenport-based single mother of two, is her work for BACA, Bikers Against Child Abuse.

According to its website, BACA is a worldwide organization existing to create a safer environment for abused children, to empower children to not feel afraid of the world in which they live. Hazen volunteers to create a cut (club vest) for every young person BACA reaches in our community.

Hazen strips the sleeves from a jacket, washes it, preps it and sews the BACA patch to its back and stitches a provided nickname — as to not expose the child's real name — to the cut. It is to signify that youngster is in great standing with the club.

On the flip side of her extensive give-back world, is Hazen's protective cover-making skills.

When the coronavirus forced a statewide shutdown of bars, restaurant and a variety of business entities in Iowa, Hazen found herself on the outside of two jobs.

After creating 20 masks as a favor to a friend who works at the Cancer Center at Genesis Health System, word leaked regarding Hazen's off-the-charts sewing skills. She then posted her work on nationwide bartender's page and withing 45 minutes had 1,200 likes and four comments about her work.

In three months, Hazen traced, cut and brought to life over 1,500 (it's where she stopped counting) face coverings for people in places like New York, New Jersey, Missouri, Florida, Oregon, Texas, Seattle, Wash., Iowa and Illinois. Some were sold, some were shared as gifts.

Her masks, made with shoe strings around the ears to adjust to the person being fitted, even earned her a 500-batch sale to an out-of-state company for its workers.

"There were 250 to one company about an hour from here and 250 to another in Indiana,'' Hazen said while lauding the assistance of her 12-year-old son and his friends during many marathon mask-making sessions. 

"That was a lot of work. you have to get the fabric, wash and iron it. I would lay it on my table, trace it and cut it in big chunks down to little pieces and put it together. If you just do one, it takes from 30 to 45 minutes to finish.''

Modest to a fault, Hazen says face covering-making is a labor of love even though some days she was at her trusty sewing machine for 20 hours. No cover-making day was ever less than 10 hours for the big-hearted dynamo. She estimates she spent $1,900 on fabric alone.

"I have a small TV in one spot so I could have an adult voice in the background so I didn't lose my mind,'' Hazen said, describing when she is in mask-making mode. "I have a table, a window where I look out and see the world.

"When I was rolling and I was filling orders for people who needed them, I was busy and I was feeling good and doing something that was making a difference,'' added Hazen. "What was cool was I had a neighbor who would see my light on at 4:30 a.m. and would have his wife call me to check on me to see if I was OK.''

Though back to work at Davenport's Gypsy Highway, Hazen, a skilled and avid motorcycle rider, says the face covering part of her life will always be there, just like time with her '96 Harley, 1340 cc Softail.

"I have three orders of eight to finish,'' Hazen said while debating a long bike ride or sitting down at the sewing machine to carve out the final 24 on her to-do list. "It's been a great experience.''

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