Second in a three-part series focusing on community efforts to provide healthcare personnel and individuals protective masks against the coronavirus.
Cristina Lee of Chappaqua is the driving force behind the Tri-State Mask Makers. She started the group locally and Faina Tsipenyuk and Paty Bella joined her at the beginning. From the first day, people from New Jersey, Connecticut and other parts of New York joined the initiative.
Lee is originally from Taiwan and has access to news from Taiwan, China and Hong Kong. In January, her contacts informed her about the need to wear masks to stop the spread.
“I tried to tell people to wear masks but I was deemed panicking or alarmist because it was against CDC’s recommendation. So, when I saw healthcare workers crying that they cannot get N95, I jumped in and started our group on March 20th,” said Lee.
Originally, hospitals did not take the fabric masks. In order to make masks more acceptable, Lee created a slideshow with all the information to help people better understand the importance of these fabric masks. Soon, hospitals began taking them.
The group has been continuing to develop different models of masks and covers and partnered with Sew-for-NY and Sew-for-CT, websites developed by Jeanhee Chung. These are organizations that people can contact if they would like to volunteer or are in need of masks. After signing up, the organization connects them to their local groups. All masks sewn by the members of Tri-State Mask Making Group are made by 100% cotton fabric, mostly new fabric. The cost of these materials is high, so they are fundraising to get materials for local sewists and groups.
As of the morning of April 25, Tri-State Mask members reported sewing about 15,000 masks–bringing the total of masks made by groups locally to about 50,000.
The mask total includes about…
10,000 made by Larchmont/Mamaroneck Masks for New York
3,000 made by Neighbors For Refugees
7,000 made by Masks & More
6,000 made by Cotton Candy Fabrics (CT)
7,000 made by Croton Mask Makers
11,000 by Kim Mulcahy, Sew Happy Members and Rye Moms
1,560 by Project Face Masks in New York City
1,000 by Nita DV and her team
1,000 by Westchester County Mask Makers led by Ivy Eisenberg
2,200 masks and 350 caps by Pleasantville group, lead by Carolyn Ramsey
2,370 by Sew-for-CT
and still counting.
Tri-State Mask Making group members distribute their masks to hospitals, group homes, nursing homes and prisons. Some of these include the White Plains Hospital, Brookdale Hospital, the pediatric nursing division at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx, Cerebral Palsy of Westchester, Richmond Community Services, Bethel’s Nursing & Rehabilitation Center and Cedar Manor.
Lee publicized that she was looking for people who sew in the area to help out. That’s when Jane Sheinfeld jumped on board. Sheinfeld is the owner of The Pieced Palette, a gift store that sells fabric gifts and accessories.
Her strengths involve buying the fabrics, sewing prototypes and typing up instructions. Sheinfeld also has access to fabrics at a wholesale price.
The group is now moving in a new direction. They are planning on serving as a funnel for new recruits to connect them with local leaders or assigning them tasks, serving as a place for people to share new ideas and innovations, facilitating access to materials, purchasing in bulk to then donate to groups and fostering local groups.
“Our sincere goal is to facilitate anyone who wants to volunteer, no matter their abilities. They can all help,” said Lee.
The motto with these initiatives is the more people involved the better. Sheinfeld said there is no pride in ownership in this community, it is all about helping others.
“If you want to start a group, start it. It’s very fluid as long as everyone has the goal in mind that people need masks and they should be made correctly,” said Sheinfeld.
This group is continuing to grow by pairing up with other people such as Lina Serpico who is offering pre-cut kits and guides to new sewers and Alexandra Rosenberg who has been working on spreading the word to the PTA.
All materials are donated so if you would like to contribute to the cause you can find their fundraiser link for supplies here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/7fu6e-mask-making-supplies
If you would like to get involved or would like a copy of mask making instructions please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to donate sewn masks, please bring them to Toni Magnotta at Chappaqua Cleaners & Tailors. Curbside pickup is available.