Project Mask WS celebrates one month anniversary with 25,000th mask

Project Mask WS celebrates one month anniversary with 25,000th mask
April 23
03:45 2020

Melissa Vickers, Katie Sonnen-Lee and Marissa Joyce were three friends united with a desire to help during the COVID-19 pandemic. Inspired by a Facebook post shared by Katie Sonnen-Lee, the three decided to see if there was a local demand for fabric masks. They quickly found out the demand was overwhelming, and issued an online plea for other locals to help. A Facebook group was soon created, and over 2,000 people have joined the online effort to “mask the city.” To date, over 43,000 masks have been requested. 

“In a time of social distancing, I have never felt so connected with my community. I am hearing from old friends, new friends, and strangers who are all asking how they can help,” says Melissa Vickers, project organizer. 

The mask, made with two layers of fabric and elastic straps, is a simple design, and has been tested by Wake Forest Baptist Health to use in situations where a n95 mask is not warranted. Masks have been requested from over 500 different healthcare providers in 14 counties. We have provided masks to healthcare providers in all areas of practice, nursing homes, assisted living facilities, home health care workers, first responders, government agencies, VA hospitals, military hospitals, food banks, homeless shelters, nonprofits, and pharmacies. 

Project Mask WS volunteers have formed teams to help with every aspect of the mask making process. There are teams organized to wash and cut fabric, measure elastic, put fabric into ready-made kits, sew masks, and deliver masks and supplies across town. Several houses and businesses have been set up around town as front porch ‘delivery sites’ for finished masks. Throughout the process, they have raised thousands of dollars to purchase supplies from local fabric shops to support the local economy. All of these donations are from private citizens committed to helping serve their community. Love Out Loud serves as PMWS’s fiscal sponsor and donations can be made through their website. 

“We have been surprised and overwhelmed by the demand for these masks in our community,” says Marissa Joyce, one of the project organizers. “It feels great to feel as if there is something we can do to be a concrete help to the heroes in the medical field who are on the front lines of this epidemic.” 

Volunteer sewists have shared stories of their experiences over Facebook. From people learning to sew for the first time, to seasoned sewists who have made over 300 masks this month, there are stories of women hooking up their sewing machines to generators while their power was out, a group of Karenni refugees who have banded together to produce masks for the group, and children learning to sew with their parents while school is on hiatus. 

The mask uses simple materials, with two layers of a tight weave fabric and either elastic or fabric straps. It can be washed and dried and used multiple times. Project Mask has a website page where volunteers can register to volunteer, request masks to sew, donate funds for supplies, and where providers can request masks for their organization. 

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