While much of our ILNH mission calls on us to demonstrably support or oppose political actions or proposals in or out of sync with our values, there are times when a true hands-on, material approach is the activism most needed.
And so it was – and is – with the Mask Brigade, a growing team of Indivizzies who jumped into mask making to help protect front line workers and the broader community during the pandemic.
As the high demand for PPE – personal protective equipment – skyrocketed past the limited supply, even hospitals were hard pressed to equip doctors, nurses and others in direct contact with coronavirus patients. Those with sewing machines and those without formed an appropriately socially-distant assembly line of donators, cutters, sewers and distributors.
Donations of material came from everywhere: bags of fabric waiting for purpose in the back of closets, old sheets, leggings to add comfort to elastic earpieces. Mask patterns in various styles were gathered and shared along with tips for producing in quantity. Cutters cut in layers, leaving the flat pieces on porches for pickup by the next line. Wire twisters twisted nose pieces. One of the Brigade’s de facto captains,’ MJ Legere, put together bags of fabric, wire and elastic, left in a blue tub on her porch for pickup by sewers. Sewing machines became permanent fixtures on dining room tables, some retrieved from attics or in-laws and handed off to those with time or skill to put thread to fabric in a usable form.
Stories of successful scrounging and sharing emerged: ILNH Board president, Susan Shapiro, found a light bulb in her mother’s old sewing box (left prior to 1979), that perfectly fit Elaine Clisham’s mother’s sewing machine, which was then handed off to MJ’s neighbor.
The relay extended far and wide. For example, Doug Graiver took 170 masks from MJ’s porch to Philadelphia, where they were handed off to a relative and subsequently to an ER nurse at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
The Brigade has produced hundreds – if not thousands – of colorful masks given at no cost to clinical staff, all manner of frontline workers, and individuals throughout the greater community.
There is no easy way to calculate the hours spent, but in the midst of this crisis, we see Agape in action: the highest form of love as the unselfish concern for the welfare of others. And that is the foundation on which every ILNH action, value and mission is based.