Atlanta, like the rest of the country, is facing a drastic shortage of masks and other personal protective equipment for healthcare personnel fighting COVID-19.

To address the local shortfall, a community collective – Sewing Masks for Atlanta Hospitals – formed late last week.

Volunteer Talisha White with some of the masks she’s made. (Special)

“We are a group of five admins and two businesses who wanted to use our resources and contacts in the Atlanta healthcare industry to mobilize making masks as a stop-gap for the local healthcare workers on the front line of the COVID-19 outbreak,” said administrator Kirsten Hawkins. They are joined by more than 500 volunteer professionals and hobbyist sewists.

Although they aren’t the same as N95 masks doctors use, which are rated to block 95% of very small particles, the design follows Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for homemade masks and are approved by the requesting health facilities and health professionals.

The collective is accepting funds into Hawkins’ business account VKSB OFFICIAL LLC, until the group is approved as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit. For donation instructions and avenues, visit this link.

“Currently, I have my business account set up to take funds. What we are doing with donations: Purchasing mask making materials. That’s it,” Hawkins shared.

A virtual meeting of the initiative’s administrators via Zoom. (Special)

“I have materials for about 30,000 kits right now ready to go. We have received around $3,200 in funding so far, and we’ve spent all of that on mask making supplies. We will be asking for a second round of donations,” Hawkins posted Monday.

Since March 19, the collective has taken more than 30 requests from health professionals from across metro Atlanta – senior centers, hospitals, rehab facilities, clinics and even animal clinics – and make arrangements for no-contact pick up and deliveries.

The best way to volunteer is through the Facebook page – Sewing Masks for Atlanta Hospitals – where you can find volunteer forms, instructions for how to make a mask and drop off locations. Volunteers are still needed for kit runners to bring kits from drop off locations to sewing volunteers and kit makers to pre-cut raw materials.

Nurses at Kennestone Wellstar Hospital wearing some of the donated masks. (Special)

“60 masks done! Woohoo!” volunteer Talisha White recently posted, while offering tips from her nurse mom. “Work in a clean environment: wipe down your workspace, your tools (scissors, sewing machine, rulers, etc), and wash your hands! Don’t cut fabric on the floor! Disinfect your cell phone!”

And in her words, “For the love of God, Talisha, stop touching your face!”

White’s first few masks are going to family, the rest will be donated to Sewing Masks for Atlanta Hospitals.

Until the government and manufacturers ramp up their production, these DIY-ers, crafters, seamsters and sewers are doing their part.

To make a request for masks or a donation, see sewingmasksforatlantahospitals.com or email SMAHAtlanta@gmail.com.

–Clare S. Richie

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