Last in a Three-Part Series Spotlighting Mask-Making Efforts
Stopping the Spread of COVID-19 One Mask at a Time
As the first two parts of our series on the efforts to create ‘PPE’ communicated, there are tens of thousands of masks and now additional gear being produced in highly coordinated efforts by Tri-State Mask Making and Masks and More. Over the course of writing this series, we also learned of impressive individual efforts taking place. Arlete Chaves and Mara Antonio are among those who did not expect to be sewing masks for family, neighbors, employers and friends. Chaves and Antonio donate to those urgently in need, or for the most minimal fees. Each day, they are still fielding requests from many eager to have every day protection.
Arlete Chaves is a babysitter and dog sitter in Ossining. She learned there was a mask shortage and knew people were in need of them. She took matters into her own hands and began making masks. The skills she developed from sewing doll dresses as a young girl translate well into making secure and sterile masks.
She has made over 100 so far, primarily donating the masks to elderly people in her community, those who are immunocompromised and those working in essential businesses such as supermarkets.
Chaves is also selling them for $10 a mask to people locally. She needs to sell in order to continue to buy materials for the masks she sews and donates. She advertises mainly on Facebook.
“I want to help as much as I can and that is why I am sewing masks. I see people in need and this way I can give them an opportunity to not get sick or if they are sick to not spread it to others,” said Chaves.
With big heart intentions too, Mara Antonio of Chappaqua began sewing masks after she heard about the Joann Fabric Make-to-Give initiative which encouraged people to pick up curbside kits to make masks and donate them to those who need them.
Antonio went twice to Peekskill to pick up the kits in the morning, completed them within a day and returned them the next morning ready for more.
From 2001 to 2011, Antonio worked at Susan Lawrence. As she was using the kits from Joann’s, someone close to her from Susan Lawrence asked if she would consider making masks for their employees.
“I agreed and I realized that I needed to re-organize my sewing/craft corner and be ready for more demand,” said Antonio.
She started by making the masks for Susan Lawrence and one of her friends who is a firefighter who posted the masks on the Chappaqua Moms page on Facebook. From that moment on, her initiative took off. She fulfills orders and makes an extra mask per order to donate to the Cancer Center at Northern Westchester Hospital.
Antonio wakes up at 8:30 a.m., quickly eats breakfast, turns on her favorite radio station from Argentina which is where she is from and begins sewing. She responds to questions, requests and sends pictures to her customers with fabric designs they can choose from.
Antonio takes occasional breaks to eat brief meals or take her dogs for a walk. She sews until about 3:30 a.m. then packages the orders, organizes her materials and places orders for materials that are running low. Antonio does not go to sleep until about 4 a.m. She has personally sewn hundreds of masks now.
“I don’t like to rush, I like whatever I make to be neatly made and presentable. It is a process from sourcing the materials, washing and drying fabrics prior to cutting for shrinkage and sanitation,” said Antonio.
Antonio sells the masks for $15 each to people locally. She purchases all materials out of pocket and places all of the fabric orders herself. She uses the money she makes from each mask to buy more materials so she can keep making them.
Antonio ensures that each time she puts a delivery out in the mailbox she disinfects the mailbox in order to avoid cross contamination. She runs this whole operation herself and is devoted to this initiative.
“It’s just me making these babies and I am loving every minute of it,” said Antonio.