NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WHDH) - Some struggling families are getting much-needed help thanks to a woman who has made it her mission to pay it forward amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Phyllis Cayer is a hero in her North Kingstown, Rhode Island community. For 10 months, she made masks to raise money for the North Kingstown Food Pantry.

“People needed masks; there were none available, so I was sewing 24/7,” she recalled.

She didn’t charge for them but instead asked for a donation that would go to the food pantry.

“Phyllis Cayer is known as the mask lady. Not everyone knows her name, but they know the mask lady,” said Stephen Souls, the operation manager for the North Kingstown Food Pantry.

In total, Cayer made about 3,000 masks with donations totaling about $10,000.

“I know so many people are struggling,” she said. “I can’t make a profit off of something horrible like this.”

The town has thanked Cayer by sending her flowers and gift cards so she could buy more products. She also received a service award.

“They talk about heroes during all of this and she truly is,” Souls said. “The mask lady will be forever known here at the food pantry.”

With plenty of masks widely available now, Cayer has stopped making them but says she’s always eager to lend a helping hand.

“It’s the little things that count and if I can help anybody, I’m more than willing,” she said.

Pantry workers say they received plenty of donations during the holidays but that all food pantries rely on year-round donations like Cayer’s as a way to keep them afloat.

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