The Coalition Mask Network is a collaborative group of individuals and teams who are working to make and distribute as many masks as possible to those with the greatest need. We first focused on helping support hospitals and clinics. We have expanded our efforts to help community members, elders and staff in nursing homes and assisted living facilities, disabled people living in group home settings, people without homes, and survivors of domestic violence. There are many urgent needs, and sewists are working morning, noon, and night to keep up with requests.
What is special about our network is that each sewist and each team may decide how they want to direct their efforts. When we work on a specific large request together, it is a great feeling to accomplish a shared goal. For example, on Thursday we set a goal of providing 500 masks to help Lynn Community Health Services. With help from several teams and many people, we reached 478 before the deadline. It is very exciting when we can all work together!
Nagasree Chakka, Ben Soule, Amy Breiting, Linda Pagani, Doreen Mitchell, Betty Gau, Michelle Tran, and Martha Valencia are all central to this work. I can’t fit all the names of the volunteers, but whether someone made 1 or 100 masks – drove 1 trip to help with supplies, or shared one roll of elastic, each person’s contribution has made this a very successful team!
Most of us became connected because we shared the view that masks were important, that everyone needed them, and that without providing sufficient help, many people would be further at risk – physically as well as mentally.
One example of an outstanding volunteer is Thilaka Ramesh. Thilaka works in healthcare – especially with seniors – and she also has children. Yet, she still has found time to not only sew more than 100 masks – she has involved friends and remains cheerful and encouraging – despite the fact that she is on the frontline with her work. This is one story out of the more than 200 people already involved. Even our local shoe store pitched in when no one could find elastic. They gave us all of the shoelaces they had! This is what we need, the “can do!” spirit. And Coalition Mask Network has the spirit!
IAGB also spoke with Vineeta Kumar, who has been very actively involved in this initiative. Vineeta says it was instinctive to get involved in the greatest need of the hour. I had never used a sewing machine before and didn’t have one. Thankfully, one of my friends loaned me hers and I learned how to use it. She also told us about her son’s initiative to help people with digital devices like laptops and gaming devices. The idea came from their State Rep, to help people who are shut down at home without access to electronic devices and any way to stay engaged and entertained. You can get more details at www.giftagame.org.