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Generosity and creativity abound, volunteers sew masks for newcomers

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Patterned fabric donated by Kristin's mother creates vibrant (and effective) masks.

Photo: Kristin Yamada

Many refugee & immigrant members of our community have been hit hard by the impacts of COVID-19. The IRC in Seattle is helping families overcome new challenges created by COVID-19 through case management, health education & health system navigation, emergency food & cash assistance, and more. IRC's amazing community of supporters have joined in these efforts to ensure our newest neighbors stay healthy and safe.

When we put the call out for donations of cloth face masks for families in need, local businesses, community groups, and many individual volunteers immediately stepped up to the plate, with more than 500 masks donated so far. We’re all experiencing challenges” says Kristin, one volunteer mask-maker, “I understand that refugee families are at an elevated level of vulnerability, facing additional barriers to vital supplies, information and services." Masks One by One, a local LDS-led group which includes 72 members, have created an incredible network of crafters, delivery drivers, and organizers to provide masks to those in need.

The thoughtfulness and care that goes into each donated mask is evident. Kristin found inspiration and help from her mother and aunts, who provided colorful fabrics with beautiful prints, hoping that the fabrics might bring some comfort, self-expression, and inspiration to those wearing them: "I hope these masks offer not only protection, but also spark cheer in moments when it could be used most." 

Ollie and Milo with the masks they made for IRC clients. Photo: Jenni C.

Michelle, a representative from Masks One by One, noted how members of the group have sorely missed their usual community service, with the stay-at-home order keeping folks from volunteering in person. The mask project has offered a way for members to help others from the solace of their own homes. Some families, like Ollie and Milo's (pictured to the left), have started friendly mask-making competitions - seeing who can sew the most masks in a week! For some, the act of making and donating masks serves as a way to connect with one another, even when creating masks alone. The collaborators behind Masks One by One have viewed their volunteer experience as a way to strengthen their neighborhoods, congregations, and community. 

Tracy and Axel - a mother son team from Seattle-based Splash Fabric - generously donated 250 masks to IRC clients. Our volunteers and friends Lisa, Kiri, Sherie, and Kathy all recommended local and national organizations that we’re now working with to provide much needed masks. Crafters Against Covid have coordinated hundreds of volunteers to produce masks for IRC. Refugee Welcome Mats shifted to making masks, instead of their usual welcome mats! While these groups have made generous mask donations to IRC, they’ve also supported friends, family, neighbors, other local organizations, and frontline workers like cashiers, nurses, and postal and sanitation workers. “Our masks are going out one by one to strangers, friends, those in need. It is a privilege to share something from our home to yours” says Michelle.

Thank you to all of our incredible community members who have offered their support! If you’re interested in sewing masks, stocking health & hygiene kits for newcomers, or learning more about IRC in Seattle's COVID-19 response, click here