In response to news of local face mask shortages, town residents from Robbinsville and West Windsor areas have joined forces to collect supplies and produce and distribute homemade masks for first responders and other healthcare workers in their community.
Since the conception of the Mercer Mask Project, which gained an official Facebook page and email address on Saturday, March 21, 105 face masks have been provided to those who need them, with requests for over 160 more masks coming in.
The project was formed almost overnight after Robbinsville resident of over 20 years Cindy Schwab Rosen shared a post about making masks on her personal Facebook account on Friday, March 20.
The following morning, Rosen heard from West Windsor resident, Johan Glozman, who was looking to help with the problem as well. He and his wife, LeeAnn, further incorporated their friends Brian and Brittany Cole.
“The Mercer Mask Project was the one that I saw that I thought had the most presence and was local,” Johan Glozman said.
The five community members have since been working together under Mercer Mask Project, tapping into their different areas of expertise to help move towards their goal.
Each help the production process in their own way.
Rosen runs the Mercer County Chapter of Project Linus, a charity that makes homemade blankets for sick children, and had fabrics that could be used in the startup. She saw there was a need for masks and knew she had the beginnings of a decent supply to help.
LeeAnn Glozman works as a nurse practitioner at Capital Health. “[She] is obviously concerned for masks for herself and all her coworkers and just in general,” he said. “I wanted to try to figure out how we could coordinate with other people.”
She has been the “subject matter expert” and has helped research the best way to make an effective mask that people can use.
Both Johan Glozman and Brian Cole have backgrounds in information technology and spearheaded the project’s online management and help manage coordinating all aspects of the production process.
Brittany Cole is an avid seamstress and has helped design and create the facemasks. She has Zoom tutorials on the Facebook page to help instruct volunteers on proper assembly.
“Each hospital has sort of their own requirement for designs, even down to within different departments within the hospital,” Brian Cole said. “And all the seamstresses want to make what’s going to be useful.”
Both the Glozmans and Coles reside in West Windsor and have their children home with them due to the Covid-19 outbreak. Working from home has allowed for more flexibility to manage this startup — picking up and delivering materials to handing off finished masks to the community.
So far, the project has provided masks to West Windsor Fire and Police Department, Greenhill Pharmacy of Robbinsville, Plainsboro Rescue Squad, the Philadelphia Homeless Clinic and private doctors and nurses who have requested them, along with home health care workers who make house calls to patients.
“We’ve all been organizing and collecting materials and making the masks and we have a whole team now of people making them and dropping off and delivering,” Rosen said.
The mass production pattern the project has set up is collecting materials such as elastic, pipe cleaners, cotton, felt or flannel, delivering them to the person who will cut them, assembling those into kits that can make 10 to 15 masks for people who want to sew and then collecting the finished products.
Masks are then delivered to those who request them. Throughout the process they clean and sanitize accordingly.
Importantly, these are not N95 face masks — which provide the most protection against the virus — but they are considered surgical masks with designed filtration to block virus particles, while still being washer and dryer friendly.
“So you would just use our mask one time, take it off after a patient encounter, put it in a bag and take it home and sanitize it for a later use,” LeeAnn Glozman said.
What supplies are needed and how to safely share materials and volunteer are all posted to the Mercer Mask Project’s Facebook page. Thus far, requested supplies has been amply provided by the community. Currently volunteers with any sewing experience would be appreciated.
“It’s been amazing,” Brittany Cole said. “It has restored my faith in humanity to see everybody just come together and people have been so generous with sending materials.”