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  • Anjali Gupta

Support...Others, Community, and Your Well-Being. Part 3 of 4.

MASKS. At the start of the pandemic, supplies of PPE were low due to denial and poor planning by our federal government. Frontline workers needed masks for their daily tasks yet their safety was at risk because of the lack of PPE. As funding solidified and communities of individuals rallied to meet unmet needs, the supply demand curve improved. With mask mandates now across the nation, retailers have produced a plethora of designs to choose from. You can even sport a mask from your alma mater if you are quick enough to snag one before they sell out. With autumn around the corner, new mask needs will soon include students of all ages and our beloved teachers. So as this pandemic continues with numbers now over 4 million in the U.S., masks remain part of our national conversation.

I had the opportunity to chat with Sally Sagarese, Sewing Advisor for Supply Love. In the earliest days of this pandemic, when many across this country were in denial or paralysis, Sally was hard at work with Founder Caroline Green, anticipating the massive needs that would overwhelm hospitals and first responders. Over the last 4 1/2 months, she has devoted countless hours sewing masks, ordering supplies, and coordinating sewing kits and volunteers. Her spirit is similar to many others I know across our community who have risen to devote their time and energy daily to supplying masks. When the going gets tough, the tough get these women have. They remind us that America is about the greater good while also about individualism. Wearing a mask is about protecting our elderly, our immunocompromised, our friends with cancer. Regardless of background, age, political affiliation, state, education, and empathy and compassion are things we all care about. Talking to women such as Sally restores faith in me that the backbone of community is still strong.

Q & A:

Sally Sagarese, Sewing Advisor for Supply Love

Inspiration To Start: When Covid hit, a local doctor asked on FB if people in the community would be willing to collect and donate supplies. Founder Caroline Green thought she could do that! Within days she realized people and businesses were desperate to help. Everyone felt powerless, but making a mask or donating trash bags or a gallon of bleach helped us all feel connected to one another. That is when she realized it was about togetherness. What we were really doing was coming together as a community to love one another. When she was in a meeting for Feed the Fight in early to mid March, the gap between supply and demand for masks was discussed. Many of the masks that were being donated in the early days were going to hospitals, and so Caroline called me to be a Sewing Advisor to help sew masks for police and first responders....and that was the start to Supply Love. We started by buying lots and lots of cotton and elastic because we were able to foresee this huge need ahead.

Observations: On the front end of this pandemic, there was so much generosity in the community. We bought so much material, so we started making kits. No one wanted to leave their house initially, but we made it as easy as possible to help. We washed, ironed, cut, and put together these kits. If people wanted to sew, we would drop and pick up from their house. Soon we had 70 volunteers sewing masks. We also put donations towards hiring local seamstresses and giving them the opportunity to earn some of their lost income. On the front end, we supplied first responders and a few hospitals such as Unity, Sibley, and Walter Reed with masks. As funding came to hospitals from other sources, we continued to fill holes and needs where we saw them. We are helping outreach for the homeless as well now. The masks during this pandemic have assisted in multiple ways. Yes, they have helped protect and prevent spread. But they have also provided a source of meaning and purpose for those who were looking for this during the pandemic. Many of our volunteers have left for the summer on vacation, and I think it is good to have a little break to recharge. We may need them all in full swing later this year if we see a second wave.

Challenges: There were so many places with needs. The flow of supply and demand has been challenging. The hardest part has been the abyss of need. We are small. The duration of this and the large numbers in a variety of directions has been challenging. We help where and when we can.

Opportunities: The opportunities to help are abundant. In addition to more than 10,000 masks, we have also distributed supplies such as hand sanitizers to local businesses, rubbing alcohol, gloves, and trash bags to hospitals. Our hearts are full. Working with local businesses and people has shown us a wonderful side of humanity. There is a strong desire to help. This opportunity to work with dedicated volunteers spiritually presented itself to us and it has been beyond meaningful. We wait for the day when our service will not be needed. We will be here as long as there is a need, but we will be glad when it is over because that will mean our country is in a better place.

Thank you to Sally for the inspiration!

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