How Our Family Started To Make Masks For Healthcare Workers
On March 20th, we were given orders to Shelter-In-Place, and schools all over had just given notice to parents that they were going to start homeschooling.
Stories from the frontline doctors and nurses were starting to pour in, desperately calling out for support to help fill the need the shortage of professional grade N95 masks, and that they would even accept homemade masks. These were all similar stories from the San Francisco Bay Area, New York, and New Orleans.
The military spouse in me prompted me to look at what we had on hand and what we could do. Luckily, the materials to make homemade masks are quite simple: cotton fabric, non-woven interfacing, and elastic.
It turned out that we already had a box of 100% organic cotton designer fabric from this cute little boutique in Berkeley that I bought years ago (Stonemountain & Daughter Fabrics). We also had Pellon, which is a non-woven interfacing layer that helps stabilize the dress and the fabric. When made into a mask, this layer actually acts as layer of filter very close to the N-95. We also had some elastic bands from when I had started to learn how to sew making pajama pants!
I rallied the family and we got started.
I reached out to a friend of mine who had started to make masks in New Orleans with her mom. She gave me a template, answered some questions, and we went to work.
(If you want to learn how to sew homemade masks, you can find the Deaconess template and video instructions here: http://wehavemasks.org/tutorial-deaconess)
In a few minutes, my 4 year-old was cutting the fabric, my 8 year-old was pinning the fabric together, my husband Timothy was ironing the fabric together, and I was responsible for sewing and putting them together. My mom and sister also helped with the assembly.
After four hours, we completed eight masks. EIGHT!
I posted this story on Facebook with the intention of dropping them off at our local hospital John Muir Health, Walnut Creek Medical Center. The next morning, a doctor from Florida reach out and said that she wanted to purchase all of them. Someone had also sent in a donation for $100 for our eight masks.
It was a bittersweet realization that people wanted what we were making. But what affected me the most was the realization that our doctors are in such a desperate situation and they are willing to pay a complete stranger across the country for masks to wear over their N95 masks to prolong their wear.
We also had other friends, family, and real estate clients who reached out as well. There was a local physical therapist, a Whole Foods cashier, a clinical psychologist who works at Kaiser…all worried about exposure to COVID-19 patients and not being able to find any masks around town.
Hearing these stories broke my heart, and by the next day, we had made 16 masks. It was a really difficult decision to decide who gets a mask. Do we give them to the hospitals for the doctors and nurses fighting on the front lines, or do we give them to the cashier who is exposed to hundreds of people a day?
We donated half of the masks to John Muir Walnut Creek hospital, and the remaining masks, we drove down to our friends, family, and Bay Area real estate clients who reached out. Tim, my husband, and I did drop-offs for a couple of hours. On the drive back, I broke down in the car realizing how big of a problem this is, and how my 16 masks were literally just a drop in the bucket.
How could I expand this to get more people involved? That’s more my specialty. I come from a background of growing businesses and ideas. When it comes to making masks and sewing them, that’s not quite my expertise.
I started to think about the Florida doctor, and the nurse in Pennsylvania that reached out. Were there other mask makers in their local area? How could I help connect them together so that it will be less time lost in shipping across the country?
I reached out to my fellow military real estate investor spouse, and this is becoming a modern “Rosie the Riveter”💪 movement. Military spouses are wired a little differently. We activate when our loved ones, our soldiers, are in harm’s way and need help. In this case, our soldiers are the doctors, nurses, pulmonary specialists, and all of the front-line workers. There are four other incredible women I have partnered with in order to service the needs (of what seems like the world) quickly.
Together, we banded together and started a non-profit called We Have Masks, The Mask Makers Collective. We Have Masks gets masks to those that need them the most. 100% of donations purchase the professional-grade N95 and surgical masks, material supplies for sewing the cloth masks, and filters for the pocket-style cloth masks. The mission is to deliver masks to front-line heroes at no cost to our makers or those receiving the masks.
THANK YOU to everyone who has supported our initiative. From old colleagues, church members, clients, friends and family from all over the country!
Since WeHaveMasks.org was launched on March 22nd, over 5,000 manufactured masks and hundreds of community sewn cloth masks have been shipped all over the United States, helping to fill the need from our local Bay Area hospitals, to New York and New Orleans.
If you need masks, would like to donate masks, or would like to make a donation, please visit our website at http://www.wehavemasks.org.
For instructions on how to make masks:
Mask with Elastic: The Deaconess mask is the simplest and has elastic. We have instructions on how to mass-produce them at http://wehavemasks.org/tutorial-deaconess. Deaconess hospital has a pdf and video at https://www.deaconess.com/How-to-make-a-Face-Mask for making one at a time.
About the Tim Eng Team:
Tim Eng is passionate about real estate investing in addition to being an active residential agent and investor in the SF Bay Area. He works with investors to find the best deals in the Bay Area.
Tim is West Point graduate and military veteran, who combines his combat leadership experience, local expert knowledge of the 680 corridor from San Jose through the Tri-Valley to negotiate and win deals for his clients.
He understands what it means to fight for the American Dream, and as a realtor, that Mission is: “Bringing People Home”.
About Sophia Nguyen Eng:
Sophia Eng is a San Francisco Bay Area marketing advisor and real estate and mortgage consultant with the Tim Eng Team, and has been the driving force behind the revenue and user growth at companies like InVision, Workday, and Autodesk. She has been featured in Forbes, is a coach and advocate for women in tech, and is also a military spouse and homeschooling mom. When Sophia is not working, you can find her in her garden where she dabbles in biodynamic farming, including raising chickens in her backyard!