By Mariel Wenger
When the Shelter-in-place began shortly after COVID-19 started to spread, I decided to see if I could make masks to help some of the front-line workers. What started off posting online if anyone had a sewing machine I could borrow, turned into a mini-army of about 25 volunteers from our surrounding neighborhoods who began to produce hundreds of masks to be donated to local hospitals, health care providers, post office workers, flight attendants, animal shelter employees, police, and many others. The masks were made according to specifications posted online by a group of New York doctors. They can be washed, have a filter placed inside, and re-used. We made, delivered, and donated a few thousand masks over the course of 10 days, all with donated fabric and elastic, and all made entirely by this small group of volunteers in our neighborhoods.
Subsequently, Miami-Dade County put an order in place requiring the community to wear masks when out in public. So, we transitioned to selling the masks for donations instead. This second effort proved extremely productive as well, raising over $2,500 in one week by selling the masks and donations. 100% of the proceeds went directly to local charities; the University of Miami Student Impact Fund for students that return to school that now have extra financial needs due to Co-Vid 19; Third Wave Volunteers, a Miami based Crisis Relief Organization which donates PPE and other equipment after crises all over the world; and recently to a GoFundMe campaign of a family where the mother, a young Miami nurse, passed away leaving her family behind.
The process was so rewarding for several reasons. One reason was the opportunity to collaborate and work together with my son Ethan, a 17-year-old junior at Palmetto Senior High School. He was instrumental in the social media component of the campaign, in coordinating the materials, and in delivering the masks. It was also very rewarding to receive all of the thank you notes and pictures from those wearing our masks from around Miami and even from other parts of the country, from NY, to Boston, Michigan and California. Lastly, it was also so incredibly rewarding to work with so many great women from our community. That is what kept us all motivated to keep producing and donating the masks.