In April, a friend of mine invited me to help out with the “Lets Breathe” project that her family was starting. This was a way to get much needed masks to healthcare providers at the beginning of the Pandemic when masks were in short supply. I decided that it was a good way to help out so I came on board the project.
HOW the “Let’s Breathe” project GOT STARTED
Like many Americans, the Allvin family learned of the critical shortage healthcare providers were experiencing in N95 and surgical masks to help keep them from breathing in or out the coronavirus. Determined to help even while sheltering in place, they launched a quick-start effort on March 21, 2020, to mobilize people in our communities to make and distribute reusable masks to those on the frontlines of the pandemic in urgent need of additional breathing protection.
In just 3 days, they delivered the first masks – 85, to an assisted living and memory care center in Falls Church, Virginia where two residents had contracted coronavirus. Soon, their growing cadre of family and community volunteers were making dozens, then hundreds of masks per week, sustained by the skilled labor of sewists and the generosity of those donating money to buy materials. The masks have gone to hospitals, community clinics, nursing homes, home healthcare providers, and rehabilitation centers in northern Virginia, Washington DC, Washington state, and Arizona.
The formula was simple: They employed easy-to-use online platforms to organize nearby neighbors quickly, raise money easily, and find local healthcare providers who need the masks. They kept the organization lean and "flat," which enabled them to move swiftly and focus our efforts on three basic tasks: (1) find and organize the people to help, (2) secure materials to make the masks, and (3) deliver the finished masks safely and hygienically.
Almost 28,000 masks were made by 101 volunteers in 6 months. I made 1788 of them. By September the need had diminished so they ended the program. By then, manufacturers had gotten up to speed with a healthy supply of masks. I was happy to help out with such a worthwhile program while sheltering in place.