Volunteers rally to produce homemade face masks for COVID-19 front-line workers

Published on Saturday, 4 April 2020 18:40
Written by Catherine Shen


NEW BRITAIN – Many healthcare workers are desperate to get adequate personal protection equipment. Knowing there’s a need, local residents are putting their creative sewing talents to use by making masks and donating them to all front-line workers against the COVID-19 virus.

“I’ve been hearing a lot of heartfelt stories from healthcare workers about the patients and how much help they all need. A lot of doctors and nurses need masks. I know how to sew, so I’m more than happy to help,” said Margaret Malinowski, owner of Staropolska Restaurant.

Malinowski said the idea kick-started from friends that found out medical workers at Middlesex Hospital needed protective equipment. Through word of mouth, she was approached to see if she would be interested in helping.

“Of course I said yes. I also started a group called Mask Force CT on Facebook that’s open to everyone,” Malinowski said. “People have been messaging us, requesting for masks, and volunteering to make them.”

The restaurant is being used as a drop-off site to maintain social distancing and to ensure everyone is being safe. Materials such as fabric and thread have been donated by various community members since the stores are shut down. Malinowski encourages donations to be dropped off at the restaurant.

The masks are free, Malinowski said. “This is all completely voluntary; no one is getting paid for this.”

There are currently about 15 people sewing masks and so far the group has made over 700 masks that are being donated to the Hartford Healthcare system, St. Francis Hospital, the Hospital for Special Care, UConn Hospital, Yale New Haven Hospital, Monsignor Bojnowski Manor, and others, including convalescence homes and people working on the front line.

“This has turned into something that I didn’t expect,” Malinowski said. “It’s amazing to see people coming together to do something in a time of need. It restores your faith in humanity. The worst part of it all is the fear. We don’t know what’s going to happen and people are scared. The biggest thing that we can do now is to stay home for our healthcare workers and keep the masks for people in the front line.”

Rising to meet demands, Angelina Kendra, owner of Quilting After Dark, said while her shop is temporarily closed, she is also sewing cotton masks for healthcare workers until factories begin producing them in the necessary quality and quantity.

“I know full well that these layers of cotton aren’t protecting people from getting the virus, but at best it could stop people from coughing and sneezing out droplets and spreading that to other people,” she said. “It does provide some protection in low-risk contact situations and it also serves as a reminder to keep your hands off your face.”

Having a lot of friends who are healthcare workers, Kendra said between knowing there is a dire need for protective gear and seeing the long-term writing on the wall, it is better to be more cautious than not.

“As we learn more about the virus, virologists are recognizing the virus has a long incubation period and the person may not display symptoms. There’s a high level of people who are out and about that may be carrying the virus and giving it to someone else without knowing it. These are the people that need to protect others from themselves and cotton masks can help against that community exposure,” Kendra said.

Her one-woman sewing machine has been working for two weeks and cranked out over 500 masks as of this weekend. Most of her masks are going directly to hospitals and medical facilities throughout the central Connecticut region, including nursing homes, midwives, hospice nurses, veterinarians and emergency response teams stationed in hot zone areas. Kendra has also been leaving masks out for delivery workers and postal-service workers to take as needed.

Kendra said she has always been a sewer and since she already has the set up and materials, it was natural for her to want to help.

“All I had to do was source elastic and ties,” she said. “This is literally better than nothing and it’s really important to stop community transgression.”

For more information to volunteer or donate toward Mask Force CT, visit: www.facebook.com/donate/156925368916765/

For more information on Quilting After Dark, visit: www.quiltingafterdark.com

Posted in New Britain Herald, General News, New Britain on Saturday, 4 April 2020 18:40. Updated: Saturday, 4 April 2020 18:43.