Mask Force 2020 was established by Ruth Dennison and Joan Zachary in an effort to organize sewers, machines, fabric, and mask materials to create and distribute masks throughout the Lehigh Valley to healthcare workers and community providers.
One morning, Joan Zachary woke up and realized Ruth Dennison had been up all night on Facebook posting messages asking for help in her new mask making initiative. Dennison, a retired oncology nurse, spoke to Zachary that morning and told her about the critical need for masks in the hospitals. They were both very concerned that the hospitals wouldn’t have enough masks, so Dennison came up with a solution to supply the hospitals and other organizations with what they needed. They were able to get a few people together to make some masks at their homes, but it exploded and friends upon friends came together to help in the Mask Force 2020 mission.
“This was really Ruth’s idea, I am just here to put the wind under her wings,” comments Joan Zachary.
Mask Force 2020 masks were created by a team of sewing, medical and manufacturing professionals who worked closely with the Lehigh Valley Health Network and St. Luke’s University Health Network to develop a design that was comfortable to wear over the N95 masks.
The design for the masks came from the Fab Lab at Northampton Community College where Joan Zachary is a faculty member. After seeing the value in the Mask Force 2020 mission, Northampton Community College allowed Monica Beaky and Sean Kernan to work at the Fab Lab to create kits for the sewers.
“We are very limited as to who can work at the Fab Lab, but the college saw the value in our mission, so they allowed us to have two people working there during this time. Monica and Sean are working very hard to help us accomplish our goals,” says Zachary.
First, the donated fabric from Joanne Fabrics and local community members gets sent to Hospital Central Services Cooperative, Inc., HCSC, which is one of the largest not-for-profit cooperative healthcare linen rental providers in North America. They wash the donated fabric and return it to the Fab Lab where the fabric is cut using lasers. Kits are then created for the sewers that the Mask Force distributes at the three locations listed below. The sewers take their kits home, sew the masks and then return them to one of the designated drop-off points. The finished masks are then delivered to the hospitals and other community providers for their use. Currently, Mask Force 2020 has made over 2,000 masks and by the end of next week, the Fab Lab will have made enough kits that if each kit comes back correctly, they will have made over 10,000 masks.
“We are grateful for all of the masks being produced, but some of the masks don’t come back correctly sewn so we offer those masks to the sewers to use themselves,” comments Zachary.
Although Governor Wolf just recommended everyone wear a mask when they go out in public, Mask Force 2020 is only offering their masks as donations to medical professionals and other community providers at this time.
“We had a facility offer to pay us for our masks, but we said absolutely not. This is a donation only kind of thing. You can donate towards the cause for supplies if you would like to, but the masks are not for sale,” says Zachary.
You can make a request for masks on their website, but their focus is on medical professionals and other community partners. Mask Force 2020 has also been asked by other areas to create masks for their facilities, but right now their sole focus is on the Lehigh Valley.
“We have had requests from state troopers, group homes, senior care facilities and KidsPeace as well, which we have donated to, but we are only filling requests for facilities in the Lehigh Valley,” adds Zachary.
The pattern to make your own mask can be found on their website, www.maskforce2020.com. You can also donate to their cause for supplies or fill out the form to volunteer on there as well.
“We feel like we are helping in a time where it is very easy to feel helpless and it means a lot for us to be able to send people off with a big box of masks knowing that we are doing something to protect the people on the front lines,” says Zachary.
Kit pick up locations and times: Belfast Wesleyan United Methodist Church, 607 School Rd., Nazareth, PA 18064, Monday: 7 to 9:30 a.m., Wednesday: 7 to 9:30 a.m., Friday: 3 to 6 p.m., First Presbyterian Church, 2344 Center Street, Bethlehem PA, 18017, Monday: 9:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Tuesday: 5 to 6:30 p.m., Thursday: 9:15 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., St. John’s UCC, 538 Thomas St., Coopersburg, PA, Monday: 9 a.m. to noon, Wednesday: 4 to 7 p.m., Friday: 9 a.m. to noon.