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Million Mask Challenge: CPG's Cindy Szabo Answers Call to Make Face Masks for Local Hospitals

Giving Back: CPG Team Members Go the Extra Mile to Keep Healthcare Workers Safe Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

There is a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for first responders, doctors, and nurses who are out on the front lines battling the COVID-19 pandemic. Local hospitals in Cleveland, OH have requested over 10,000 masks in three weeks to keep healthcare workers safe as their supplies dwindle down. 

million-masks-challengeCPG's Cindy Szabo, Per Diem Specialist, has answered the call to sew face masks as part of the Million Mask Challenge, sponsored by Pins & Needles, a local sewing store in Middleburg Heights, Ohio.

"Everyone needs this. Every hospital needs it. Every nursing home needs it. We know the entire globe will need this so we are trying to make this a global sew-a-thon and make 1 million masks!" said Jan Brostek, owner of Pins & Needles. "Together, we can do anything."

We caught up with Cindy to learn more about the challenge, what it takes to make a face mask, and more ways we can get involved to help our healthcare professionals during this unprecedented time.


How did you hear about the Million Mask Challenge?

"I am in a lot of sewing groups on Facebook and I saw a local quilting store, Pins and Needles, post that they got a request for 10,000 masks in three weeks from University Hospitals. It hit home for me because my grandson in currently in NICU at UH. I thought 'I could do that, I'm up for a challenge!'"

 

Why did you decide to do this?

"In addition to my grandson being at UH, my sister is a nurse in Pennsylvania and she is truly on the front lines of the pandemic. When people come into her hospital with COVID-19 symptoms, they are placed on her floor until they can be tested. If they are positive, they get moved into isolation. However, every day, she is putting herself at risk to help these people. She really inspired me to give back. I hope sharing this story inspires others to give back, too."

 

Do you have any help?

"It's not just me doing this, the entire sewing community and the crafting community in general is always quick to jump in and help during a crisis. Sewers locally and across the nation have really come together to help out those in need."

 

What are the masks like? Is there a specific type of mask that healthcare workers are requesting?

"Hospitals vary in their specifications for masks. One of the main kinds I've been making, and the one Pins and Needles has a tutorial of, is a reversible mask. Hospitals specified two colors, one side light and one side dark so they can reuse it. Wire across the top for the nose, with a pocket in between for tissues or added protection."

 

Cindy-Szabo-Mask-Challenge

 

What tools do you need to make a mask?

"Besides a sewing machine, you really only need quilting cotton, elastic or fabric to make ties, and a thin metal strip to make the nose piece. For the metal strip, you can use a number of materials — even paper clips, jewelry wire, Christmas tree ornament wire, or bobby pins."

 

How long does it take to make a face mask?

"Some tutorials note that an average sewer can make one mask in about 10 minutes, but in my experience, its actually closer to 30 minutes per mask. The materials are very simple but it is time consuming — Cutting, sewing, hook making. Even though it may take a while, every mask we make, if it helps somebody, it's worth it. That's what is really important."

 

How many masks have you made so far? What is your personal goal?

"I setup an assembly line process so I can make several masks at once. I just started doing this on Sunday and in a few hours, I made 4. Now, I'm up to 16 and counting! I have ton of fabric and I haven't yet made a dent in it, so realistically, I'd like to make as many as I can possibly make. I want to over-help and over-extend what I can do."

 

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Where are you donating the masks to?

"In addition to University Hospitals, my friend and I received a request from Sprenger Health Systems to make as many masks as possible for their 14 facilities. We're also working on a request for a home healthcare facility with 100 workers. That's a lot of masks! Our hope with this post is that we can recruit more people to make masks! We can definitely use help, the need is so great right now."

 

How do you get connected with hospitals and other medical facilities who need donations?

"The Million Mask Challenge Facebook Group is a great place to get connected. The group started out small, but then posts began flooding in from all over —from nurses, from doctors, from home healthcare providers— all across the country begging for supplies and donations.

The Million Mask Challenge group has now gotten so large that the coordinators have turned their page into a database for hospitals, nursing homes, and anyone in need to post addresses and types of masks that they are looking for. Sewers can then go into this database and find local facilities in need in their area to donate masks to.

If you have masks and are looking for a place to donate, Pins and Needles also has a drop box at their location and you can find more information on their website."

 

Anything else you would like to share about this project?

"We've seen a surprising amount controversy over the masks, you've probably seen comments on Facebook criticizing them. But hospitals are literally begging for them. It's important to understand their purpose: We are making these masks to the specifications that the hospitals request, and they are made to go over the N95 masks (or regular masks) to help extend the lives of those masks. They can be sterilized, washed in hot water and bleached, so they are reusable. There is an extreme shortage of PPE right now and anything we can do to protect these front line workers is extremely helpful."

 

Conclusion

All of us at ContainerPort Group want to give a huge shout out to Cindy for all of the work she is doing to help protect our healthcare workers! Thank you for going the extra mile, we appreciate you.

If you would like to get involved and are interested in volunteering or sewing masks, please contact Cindy Szabo by phone at (440) 343-7108 or email Cindy.Szabo@containerport.com. 

For more information, sewing patterns, tutorials, and other ways you can help, check out these helpful resources below.

 

Resources