Harmanjit Jalf, of Troy, runs her Indian clothing boutique Sahar Creations from her home. With the help of friends, she recently made and donated thousands of face masks.

Harmanjit Jalf, of Troy, runs her Indian clothing boutique Sahar Creations from her home. With the help of friends, she recently made and donated thousands of face masks.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Local clothing boutique owner makes, donates masks

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published September 3, 2020

 Harmanjit Jalf shows one of her original handmade masks.

Harmanjit Jalf shows one of her original handmade masks.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


STERLING HEIGHTS — Normally, Harmanjit Jalf would be spending her summer selling wedding dresses, colorful blouses and saris from her Troy-based home clothing boutique, Sahar Creations.

But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 hasn’t been a typical year.

“It’s been really slow, actually,” she said. “This is the wedding season, graduations. It has been really, really slow.”

But the setback hasn’t stopped her from using her time to reinvest in the community. She has recently made about 2,000 masks for health workers, students and nursing home residents. In addition, she raised money to import about 6,000 masks for the Detroit Public Schools.

“It was something small, being in the fabric community, I could do to contribute toward the community,” she said. “That was the least I thought I could do.”

Jalf said she first started donating masks back in March. One of her friends, a doctor, requested her help in producing them. So Jalf worked with a couple of her friends and ended up sending 150 masks to the doctor.

“She provided some fabric,” Jalf explained. “At the time, Joann (Fabrics) was sold out of fabric. … A few of my friends had new bedsheets. We used up all that fabric.”

Jalf’s second project involved helping the Michigan Indian-American Community Service, which also requested facial coverings. She ended up making about 500 masks for them.

“They were made in-home by a couple of my friends with regular sewing machines,” she said.

Then Jalf started helping schools. When discussing what shaped her motivations, Jalf cited her experiences as an English as a second language teacher through the Rochester Community Schools district. She said her family also inspired her to act, including her husband and her teenaged son, who is in high school.

She said she heard that the Detroit Public Schools needed help when talking with a high school principal who was her former boss.

“It started with one school. It was just word of mouth,” she said. “I contributed to six schools — high schools and also K-12 schools.”

Altogether, Jalf provided the Detroit school system with about 6,000 masks thanks to her friends’ and her financial contributions. Due to the large number of masks the Detroit schools needed, she chose to import ready-to-wear masks from India rather than make them with her own equipment.

Jalf said that, while the Troy and Rochester school districts have more resources to affordably reopen classes in a pandemic, she worried about what the Detroit schools would be able to do. She said schools shouldn’t have to choose to spend limited resources on facemasks over educational materials. She also said she hopes the donation will make minority students safer and better protected against COVID-19 when they return to the classroom.

“All the schools were really happy, and they were really full of gratitude,” Jalf said.

Jalf said she put in about $1,500 from her pocket for the project, and a couple of her close friends donated $3,000 toward the effort.

Jalf’s friend, Sonal Ramrakhiani, said she gave a substantial personal donation to the Detroit schools mask donations. She said she was happy to do her part because her tech job is located in Detroit.

“Giving back to the community is something that is very close to my heart,” she said. “In our own little way, this was our way to give back to the community. We are more than happy to support Harmanjit in this very noble cause.”

Jalf said she still is getting requests for more masks, such as from a teacher at a New Jersey school that serves low-income students. Another school in Hamtramck has requested help, but she said she hasn’t finalized that plan yet.  

Find out more about Sahar Creations by visiting its Facebook and Instagram pages.