Man makes ‘Be Kind’ face masks, sales benefit Dubuque Rescue Mission

By Daniel Charland

Witness Correspondent

DUBUQUE — While face masks have become a common sight over the last several months, Jeff Lenhart of Dubuque is creating unique ones to stand out with a positive message. A staff member of the Dubuque Rescue Mission, a nondenominational Christian charity that provides shelter for homeless men and serves thousands of meals per month to those in need, among other services.

Lenhart was inspired to distribute masks with the words “Be Kind” embroidered on them to help counter the feelings of negativity brought about by the pandemic.


As Lenhart phrased it, “I see so many people bitter and stressed out.”

The “Be Kind” message was largely inspired by an earlier project Lenhart had performed back in 2014 when he quit his realtor job and went to Washington, D.C. to help the homeless for a month. Part of his charity work was handing out “Be Kind” shirts. When the pandemic hit, he decided to resurrect his old idea in the form of facemasks.

Lenhart’s desire to focus on the virtue of kindness stemmed from his own experiences of having to deal with unkind individuals

“I have vivid memories of being bullied from kindergarten through high school,” Lenhart said, explaining what the message of kindness on the mask means to him. “For me, a big part of it is not judging one another. We don’t know the inner struggles people are having against themselves. We don’t know the demons they deal with. I’m not perfect; I make mistakes. We should all walk in someone else’s shoes.”

The masks are created by a friend of Lenhart’s at HMC Solutions in Dyersville, a company that performs custom embroidery and screen printing services. Proceeds from purchases of the masks go to wherever the Dubuque Rescue Mission needs them the most, including providing meals and shelter.  The sales have had a surprising amount of success, with almost a thousand sold so far. While Lenhart only expected to sell around fifty masks at first, their popularity has greatly exceeded his expectations, raising over $10,000 for the Dubuque Rescue Mission. He’s experienced some very positive reactions from his friends, who said that they “Can feel the love in these masks,” and “Can tell they were made with care, with loving people handling them.”

Lenhart is happy that his “Be Kind” masks are having such an impact, believing that a bit of kindness and willingness to understand other people’s predicaments in life can go a long way.

“Growing, up, I lived in a small town,” Lenhart said. “I never saw any homeless people until I went to Washington, D.C. for a conference. That was my first memorable experience of seeing a homeless person on the streets. I’d judge them and think they were taking advantage of people and could live in houses if they wanted to.”

With his later experience and charity work proving his initial judgments about the homeless wrong, Lenhart continues to volunteer with the Dubuque Rescue Mission during extra hours, even when he’s off his paid staff hours.

If you are interested in purchasing a “Be kind” mask for yourself, contact Jeff Lenhart at Masks are available in children and adult sizes with adult size costing $20 and children $15.

Cover photo: Some of the face masks designed by Jeff Lenhart are shown above. Proceeds from the sales of these items have supported the Dubuque rescue mission. The charity provides shelter to homeless men and thousands of meals every month for people in need. (Contributed photo)