Local Nonmedical Essential Providers During CONVID-19 Pandemic

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – April 16, 2020, Lafayette, Ca.  Coretta Scott King once wrote, “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” Certainly in our little burg of Lafayette during this uncertain time of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we are witnessing firsthand the compassionate actions of our first responders, our teachers, our restaurateurs, essential small businesses, and our City staff among others, all working to keep our lives moving in a forward direction.


The Lafayette Mask BrigadeBut with social distancing rules in place and personal protective equipment in such restricted supply, how has so much of this been able to take place? The answer is the extraordinary behind-the-scenes work of the Lafayette Mask Brigade. Very quietly, this volunteer team of local, experienced “sewists” has come together with the goal of creating up to 2,000 masks for nonmedical essential responders in our town: the folks who drive for Lamorinda Village, Meals on Wheels, Seniors Around Town, and White Pony Express; who staff cash registers and stock shelves at Diablo Foods, and manage critical business at Lafayette city offices, Lamorinda Village, and Orinda Senior Villages; who support clients and families at Las Trampas, Inc., Monument Crisis Center, Trinity Center, and Loaves and Fishes. Staff and residents of Hope Solutions, Chateau Lafayette, Merrill Gardens and Belle Terre senior centers along with Shelter, Inc., Trinity Center, and Youth Homes are also among the beneficiaries.


Susan Goldie of sewnow! Fashion Studio said the idea originated from community. “As the extreme nature of the pandemic was unfolding, I received email after email or tags on my social media account, asking if there was any way we could help make masks,” she explains. “Being in action always feels healthier to me so I tried to think of a way to respond that would be as useful as possible. I started with the medical community but their requirements were not compatible with what we could really provide, so I pivoted to designing the best cotton mask we could realistically create.” About the same time, Kathy Bowles of the Lafayette Community Foundation (LCF) and Anne Birdsong at Lafayette Rotary were seeking mask solutions for nonhealthcare essential workers in the community. They reached out to Susan and the Lafayette Mask Brigade was born. Their goal: Identify the organizations in need and then create and deliver up to 2,000 free, reusable facemasks as quickly as possible.

The Lafayette Mask Brigade

Through Kathy’s LCF contacts, potential recipients were explored. Anne’s relationship with Lafayette Rotary was critical to receiving an important initial donation for supplies. Other local businesses and organizations like the Lafayette Chamber of Commerce, Diablo Foods, and the City of Lafayette as well as private citizens and many of the “sewists” pitched in with further financial support.


Responding to emails offering assistance, within 24 hours Susan had 40 people signed up to sew. But a pattern had to be finalized, and efficiencies considered if their goal of providing a high quality, well-fitting mask was to be met. Research online was still evolving but it pointed to 800-1000 thread per square inch cotton sheeting, with an adjustable edge near the nose for a closer fit. Susan, pondering a Peet’s Coffee bag tie at her kitchen table, realized a small wire insert could work. The next step was to quickly source materials.


The Lafayette Mask BrigadeTo ensure every mask was made to the highest standard possible in a cottage industry of this kind, the Brigade added 3 critical new members:  local custom tailors Joseph Jamkochian of Creative Alterations and Carlos Gomez of Moises Gomez, and Linda Morris of the Cotton Patch. The core team worked around the clock to precut fabric and create kits of 40 masks each, for “sewists” to complete at home Many worked 10 hours at a sitting to meet the urgent and increasing need; 880 masks were ultimately delivered in that first week of April 6. By April 20, the Lafayette Mask Brigade will be on track for meeting its goal.


“We wanted to do the most good for those in our community who were in immediate need, and in the shortest amount of time,” Susan says. The response has been one of heartfelt and profound gratitude


“Thank you to Susan Goldie and her team of wonderful helpers. These masks will keep our volunteers safe as they work to keep our vulnerable older population safe. This is an incredible community effort and we will all get through this together!” – Kathryn Ishizu, Operations Director, Lamorinda Village


‘On behalf of residents and staff we want to thank you and all the volunteers who gave us the beautiful hand sewn masks. We appreciate your kind thoughts and care in protecting us during this worldwide health crisis.” – Aubrey Goo, General Manager, Merrill Gardens at Lafayette


“The staff loves them. They are comfortable and lightweight. People who wear glasses especially like the way they sit around the nose.” – Connie Collier, Vice President, Diablo Foods.


“The rainbow of masks received from LCF are helping the members and staff keep each other safe while they Shelter in Place and receive critical services, here – at the place they call home. Each lovingly made mask reminds us that we are part of the community and we are grateful for this generous support.” – Leslie Gleason, Executive Director, Trinity Center


“Thank you for the masks, and your magnificent support. In a world of uncertainty, especially when it comes to PPE for our staff who are working on the front lines, it is always so comforting to know that the members of the Lafayette community are there to help keep both our staff and the people we serve safe and healthy!  We just can’t express our gratitude enough.” – Daniel Hogue, Executive Director, Las Trampas, Inc.


As word of the project has spread, others are asking for masks for their own families or communities. In response, Susan has posted the pattern, a video tutorial, and additional information on her website https://www.sewnow.com/pages/ppe-mask-making.


“Sewing these masks is not really a ‘fun’ sewing job – It’s precision work, and for all those sewists, who sewed their hearts out, dealt with broken needles, tricky ironing, and miles of bias tape, I am so grateful. All of this was turned around very quickly, by so many generous volunteers, and all of them acting with great love for community.”


If you would like to volunteer, please watch the tutorial to make sure you feel comfortable taking it on. If you feel it’s a good fit for you, we would love to have your help! Fill out the form to get on the volunteer list!