Mask Makers: We Need YOU!

Mask makers: We NEED you! When we were at Banneker, our amazing mask-making force was cranking out 2000+ masks a week. We didn’t want to shut down, but with no support or encouragement from local leadership to continue and no place to go, we had to. Since reopening on 7/27, we have received an average of less than 900, and the number of masks we are receiving has dropped by 35% week over week. Thanks to the long duration of this cataclysm, many are no longer feeling so generous in their support, and we now receive donations equivalent to less than 25 cents for each mask we provide to the community free of charge. Though we have always kept our costs at less than $1 per handmade mask, that is not sustainable.

An instant outcry from the community and our volunteers upon announcing we had to shut down stopped us. Since then, the whole world has changed once again and we all went from feeling hopeful with a flat curve on the heels of a long hard shutdown to watching our statewide case numbers climbing daily, a nationwide death toll of over 160,000 people, and new cases in-state of more than 1200 per day. What was supposed to be a month-long break to wind down and go dormant until winter at the earliest became a sprint to reconfigure distribution. I [Kelly] have literally had one three-day weekend off since March, as I have desperately tried to make this program sustainable for the long term despite being repeatedly crippled by fickle support, constant moves, and the disruption of constant discouragement.

We finally have a good place where we can stay thanks to Area 10 Agency on Aging and a system that makes it easy for us to stay focused on getting masks out the door instead of logistics, but after five long months of shouting into the ether about the importance of free, maximally accessible masks, a LOT of our volunteers are tired of being unappreciated, including me. Masks are {REALLY} old news for some of us at this point but there are many, many people who are just catching on and we need them to start wearing masks consistently as soon as possible.

I still believe that the only thing we can do to help make that happen is continue to keep cranking masks out as fast as we possibly can, but I have never made a single mask myself. I can barely sew a straight line on my beleaguered Singer, which has been living at mask headquarters since April for more accomplished sewists to use. I need as many mask makers making masks for us as I can possibly get, because as soon as we have enough masks, we will be able to open mask stations with the remaining partners we’ve accepted into the program, including both Indiana University and the  Monroe County Public Library.

Unfortunately, as things are, we are barely getting enough masks to keep our existing stations full and I am increasingly worried about what will happen as more and more students arrive in town over the coming weeks. We know that as fast as our test stations have been getting emptied, the IU and MCPL stations will get emptied even faster. It is our hope that demand will start to drop by late September, but until then, we need as many masks as we can possibly get. Please keep making masks, start making masks, resume making masks… If you’re not making masks for some reason we might be able to do something about, let us know! If you can’t make masks but want to support us, please donate!