To All of the People Sewing Masks
I have spent the last week trying to figure out how to sum up this life-altering experience, and I'm struggling to find the right words. How can you describe this overwhelming, all-consuming, uplifting, frustrating, and immense feat we all dove in without question and accomplished together? Words don't feel like an adequate medium to express the bursting pride that I have in my chest for each and every one of you for what we achieved.
Deciding to start a massive volunteer effort in the middle of a global pandemic is, surprisingly, not something any of us have done before. But as I read the word "bandana" as a recommendation for healthcare providers on the CDC website, my hair positively burst into flames. That fire turned into a quiet fury that said "we can do better. We have to do better." We can't leave the people who so bravely risk their lives for us each and every day stranded without the most basic protection. If our leaders can't make it happen we will make it happen ourselves. And hell if we can't sew something better than a bandana.
That burning desire to help was shared by people throughout the state, around the nation and around the globe. We mobilized so fast. And friends, I am so overwhelming proud to say we did do better. We did better on an absolutely massive scale.
I think sewing can be easily dismissed by some. It's "women's work." The work of soft spoken grandmas who smell like cookies raising money at craft fairs. Few who don't sew understand that it is truly a technical trade- requiring years of learning and practice to do well. Few understand that it is also physically taxing. To sit, with intense concentration, for hours on end sewing, trimming thread, turning, ironing, folding, fighting with your machine, cutting out more fabric as fast as you can, only to start all over again the next day.
Few understand the amount of time that is involved. How we have struggled to find basic supplies in this crisis such as quilting cotton and elastic. How we waited weeks for these desperately needed supplies to arrive, only to need to wash and dry them repeatedly to pre-shrink and ready the fabric. To iron yard after yard after yard. And to cut huge stacks of masks and fold and iron ties before ever once sitting down to sew.
We see you.
I'm here to say: we see you. We see how hard you have worked. We see your swollen fingers and sore wrists. We see the charges you put on your credit cards because the money could get figured out later. We see the miles and miles you drove to pick up masks, shepherd supplies, and make deliveries to the folks who needed them. We see your exploded dining rooms and kitchens that have been overrun with fabric and cutting tools for weeks. We see the meals you skipped and the work you phoned in because the drive to help was too urgent to drown out. We see you.
What we achieved.
This group came together better than we could have ever anticipated. We put out a call for help and were answered thousands of times over. From our six founding admins (who have busted their tails to make this all happen), to the incredible county coordinators spending countless hours with their volunteers, to the dedicated drop locations and quality checkers, to the stitchers and delivery drivers. We had the right mix of people with the biggest hearts at exactly the right time. I sort of can't believe that we did what we did.
All in all, we filled more than 22,600 mask requests in 56 days. I'm floored. And I'm so, so proud to have been a part of this. We hope you are too.
It was a very hard decision to close this group. I don't think I'm alone when I say we have mixed emotions about it. But we saw first hand how much more nimble a local effort can be, and our statewide structure meant that getting masks to individuals would be much harder than how our system was set up to function.
We have no doubt that a lot of you are planning to continue to sew. We plan to keep sewing as well. The need in the community is great. We all know how to make long-lasting masks that can hold up to the toughest laundering standards. And we can now take this knowledge and help our own neighbors, family and friends directly. We have a list of other sewing groups to join, as well as donation spots to drop off completed masks.
We are overwhelmed with thanks for your unbelievable gifts of time and talent. Please stay safe and don't be strangers. We hope you are as proud as we are to have made this all happen.
Kristen, Kris, Sarah, Abby, Suz, and Nicole