Fourth grader makes masks to aide health workers; volunteers connect online

Gaby Araica, a 10-year-old 4th grader at St. Brendan’s School, has single-handedly sewn 24 masks and counting for healthcare professionals in need of personal protection equipment.

Gaby’s sewing teacher at In Stitches in Quincy posted a tutorial with directions on how to make the masks, which inspired her to start. As Araica continues to sew more masks, she plans to donate them to nurses in her neighborhood who will bring them into their workplaces.

Volunteers stitching masks for hospital workers

Local volunteers are taking advantage of a newly obtained abundance of free time by using fabric and elastic to create masks for healthcare workers experiencing shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) nationwide in dealing with the coronavirus crisis.

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At-large City Councillor Annissa Essaibi-George (above, right) is leading the effort out of the Stitch House, her sewing business on Dorchester Ave. On Sunday, she hosted a virtual ‘Sew-A-Long,’ which was live streamed on Facebook and Zoom. (Photo by Chris Lovett)

“Yesterday went really well. We were on Facebook live stream and about 25 people joined us on Zoom,” Essaibi-George told the Reporter in a phone call on Monday.  “Going into yesterday we had requests from local medical facilities and hospitals for about 400 masks. And with everybody involved, we got a few hundred done.” 

Stephanie Cave, an instructor at the Stitch House, has organized the effort online, calling the group the Boston Area Mask Initiative (BAMI). She has been answering questions and providing instructions for internet volunteers.

“We’ve put the call for requests out and our current request level is at about 2,400 masks.,” Cave said on Monday. “We have many people in the community making these masks and it’s very exciting,” she told the Reporter, adding:

“We have had many requests from medical workers in the greater Boston area, and we’ve gotten some requests from people in the suburbs, but about 90 percent of them have come from Boston.” 

While Cave is creating a website for the group to centralize all of its information, volunteers are currently coordinating efforts on Facebook, where they can find a written list as well as video instructions for making the masks. The group also provides connections for people who need materials, and a list of drop-off sites. 

“Right now we have three drop-off locations: Gather Here, a stitch lounge in Cambridge; the Stitch House in Dorchester; and Sullivan’s Pharmacy in Roslindale,” said Cave. Sullivan’s will serve as the flagship drop-off location should the other businesses have to shut down per the governor’s latest advisory.

Cave said that the virtual interactive sew-a-long sessions are also providing a space for social interaction. On Sunday, “it was a great way to connect and it felt very social even though none of us were in the same room.”

She added: “This project overall has developed out of a need and a desire to help in some way, and this is a very tangible way that we can make a difference. It keeps me going to see people on the ground working on a grass-roots level. The smaller requests that we get for, say, 10 masks, are just as important as the much larger requests that we get.” 

The initiative grew out of a request for masks from hospitals in the Midwest, said Essaibi-George. “We decided if we were going to do it, we were also going to support local interests, and we discovered that there was local need.” 

She’s planning to host another Sew-A-Long on Friday evening, saying: “We’ve had more requests for masks.” The effort will be completely virtual this time, Essaibi-George said, noting that on Sunday “we had about three people in the shop keeping social distancing. But going forward, we will be 100 percent virtual following Gov. Baker’s latest announcement” advising a more-widespread stay-at-home effort for Massachusetts residents.

“People who sew and craft are always looking for some way to contribute,” said the councillor. “It feels good to help out, and it has been really nice to see other people and connect through the livestreams while we are all social distancing.”

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