Allison Calek: App State cross country runner and community hero


Courtesy of the Calek family

Allison Calek with several of the masks she’s made for others during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Silas Albright, Reporter

When App State cross country runner Allison Calek was forced to stay at home in Illinois after spring break, she found herself with more free time than she was used to. She wanted to find a way to help out during the pandemic, but she wasn’t sure how.

“I was just kind of sitting around and not really doing much of anything, except reminiscing on my freshman year,” Calek said. “I was always really busy with school and athletics and all that stuff, so then when I got here, I just had nothing to do except school.” 

One day, Calek and her mom, Laura Duffy, saw an email from a nearby fabric store with directions on how to make simple masks out of cotton, interface and elastic. 

“We had all the material, because my family — we’re all pretty big sewers, so we had tons of cotton,” Calek said. 

At first, they just made a few masks for their elderly relatives and immediate family. Then, Duffy made a post about the masks on Facebook, and more family friends started requesting masks. 

“Now, just everyone reaches out and asks if we can make some,” Calek said.

As Calek and Duffy were making more and more masks, they started running low on necessary materials. 

“People have been donating fabric to us so we can make more masks,” Calek said. “The more people that we help, the more help they give back with anything they can give us.” 

Duffy said that some people have even offered to donate things other than fabric. 

“A lot of people have offered us money and we have refused,” Duffy said. “We’re like, ‘Just pay it forward.’ If this is what we can do to help, then you guys pay it forward. Buy someone supplies that might need extra paper towels. Do what you can do.”  

Courtesy of the Calek family
Calek uses a sewing machine to sew the masks together.

The reason they started making the masks was simply to help out their community, but Calek has noticed how grateful the recipients of their masks are. 

“Everyone is very, very appreciative of them,” Calek said. “I’ll get calls and people will just be super excited, or tell us that other people loved their mask so much and were wondering where they bought it from, and then they had to tell them that we made it.” 

Calek also talked about how the mask-making has helped keep her busy while being stuck inside.

“When I started working on the masks, it just kind of gave me something to do to almost distract myself from missing school,” Calek said. “It gives me an additional thing to work on throughout the day, just to keep myself busy and maintain more of the schedule that I was used to in school so that I don’t find myself just sitting around.”

According to Calek’s mom, she started helping others at a young age and has been doing so ever since.

“Allison has always, always been one to help others,” Duffy said. “This is nothing new for her.” 

Duffy said Calek has been involved in her community “since she was a little baby.” She said Calek has worked with Magnificent Mutt animal rescue, Project Linus, a homeless shelter, and an anti-drug organization.

Duffy also said that many people want to help out during the pandemic, but aren’t quite sure how.

“I think a lot of people struggle in times like this because they don’t know how to help,” Duffy said. “Maybe you have an elderly neighbor you could check on, maybe you could make masks, maybe you have extra material you could give someone that’s making masks. I think people are finding ways to come together.”

Courtesy App State Athletics
Calek during an App State cross country race. She set a PR in the 5k with a time of 21:03. 2 at the Mountains to Sea Open on Sept. 20.

App State Director of Athletics Doug Gillin said he’s proud of the way Calek figured out she could help.

“The first word that comes to my mind is just proud of how she’s representing Appalachian, her family and her community in doing that,” Gillin said. 

Although many people are grateful to Calek and her mom for helping them out in this time of need, Calek feels like she’s just doing what’s right. 

“If I have the time and the abilities to do something, I feel like it totally just makes sense to help other people out,” Calek said.