Middlesex United Way seeks help making COVID-19 masks

MIDDLETOWN — We are working with dozens of individuals, churches, civic and community groups in Middlesex County, but our volunteers come from all parts of the state, such as Monroe, West Haven, Hartford and Meriden.

Through our community engagement, we have identified the need for thousands of face masks in Middlesex County. In a little over a week since launching our organizing efforts, we have delivered nearly 500 masks to our community partners and first responders, and are delivering more each day.

Volunteers feel empowered to help the community during such a challenging time: making masks makes them feel less helpless. People are volunteering their time and sewing skills, offering fabric from their homes to others who can sew, and enlisting family members, friends and coworkers to help with this effort.

Although we have delivered hundreds of masks, hundreds more are still needed. If you are able, we are asking for volunteers to sign up to help us meet this growing need. Due to the new executive order, there is a desperate need for cloth face masks for many of our partners, as well as police and fire groups throughout Middlesex County.

If you are a group or an individual making masks, please coordinate with us to get them to the most vulnerable right now. We have volunteers who can make contactless drop-offs and pickups. Please sign up by visiting MiddlesexUnitedWay.org/masks.

We recommend visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for mask instructions and tutorials, as well as using fabric made of double-weave cotton (such as denim, duck cloth, canvas or twill) with no or minimal stretch. Middlesex United Way can deliver and provide fabric to volunteers able to make masks.

Masks can easily be made with clean fabrics you may have around the house, such as napkins, T-shirts, tablecloths, and any other pieces of material.

I would remiss if I did not mention this week is National Volunteer Week, and, although we are celebrating a little differently this year, our volunteers are still — and always will be — our backbone. So many individuals are continuing to step up during this time, and their hard work is helping to keep our community safe.

Although we must stay 6 feet apart and practice social distancing, there are still ways to participate in National Volunteer Week and support our most vulnerable community members. You can donate goods, host a food drive, record stories for children, deliver food, and more.

Visit MiddlesexUnitedWay.org/COVID for a list of requested items.

For information about making masks for the most vulnerable, contact Christina Heckart at christina.heckart@middlesexunitedway.org.

Kevin Wilhelm is CEO and president of the Middlesex United Way in Middletown