Updated: Jun 7, 2021
Little did mother and daughter, Toula and Thalia, know a dinner table conversation could lead to county-wide movement.
Masks for Monterey County is a small grassroot organization, established during COVID-19. Thalia, one of the founders of Masks for Monterey County, highlighted that many people in the Monterey Community wanted to lend their hand to support.
Little did mother and daughter, Toula and Thalia, know a dinner table conversation could lead to county-wide movement. Masks for Monterey County, a small grassroots organization founded by this pair, has produced roughly 8,000 masks for the county of Monterey. Having high-risk family members themselves, they saw a need in their community for masks as the nation learned more about preventing the spread of COVID-19. The immediate demand for masks outgrew supply nationwide during the early stages of the pandemic, giving the mother-daughter duo an idea.
Toula and Thalia began devoting time to creating and dispersing masks for their community, especially to the elderly, essential workers, and other high-risk populations. Toula shared, “I hadn’t gotten out my grandmother’s sewing machine for quite some time, and I called my mom and said, “What kind of oil do I need?’ She received the oil in the mail from her mother a few days later. They began the process of assembling and producing masks soon after. Toula and Thalia soon realized they would need to recruit more help to meet the demand. They began reaching out to other family and community members for assistance.
Fortunately, Toula and Thalia’s call was met with an inspiring amount of support. To best organize these efforts, the mother-daughter duo, with the help of Toula’s son, developed a website called, “Masks for Monterey County” which offered two types of forms for anyone to complete. These forms allowed individuals to register as mask-makers, as well as sign up to receive masks based on their need. Amidst the growing pandemic, the community united to support one another, one mask at a time.
Thalia and Toula had the guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in mind as they designed the masks. All were made from 100% cotton and double-layered. Some even had a pocket added to them for community members who wanted to add a filter. T-shirt community donations and involvement played a large role in ensuring these masks were comfortable and functionable … and even a bit fashionable.
“We had these amazing quilters,” Toula explained, “Who had all this fabric and really saw how they could contribute and everyone wanted to. It was so moving.”
This mother-daughter duo didn’t just receive mask-material donations. Other community members helped by spreading the words and sharing information, one even sharing their skills in the kitchen to bake cookies as a ‘thank you’ to local mask-makers.
Thalia explains how community resilience can go much further than a small town in Monterey. “We even received masks from someone in Florida, who heard about us and was willing to send about 3-4 boxes of masks from this mask-maker in Florida, who had the time and was willing to send them across the country and into our hands. And that’s incredible to me because we are such a small old town.” The numerous donations not only contributed to the success of face masks distributions, but also sparked future plans for this grassroot organization.
Thalia wanted to go beyond just making an immediate, quick-fix solution during this early stage of the pandemic. She suggests these masks could be more sustainable--reused once the pandemic ended. She shared, “[Masks] were mainly used in the dialysis centers or places where people still needed them ... so we were planning to just collect all those masks, even if it meant driving around the county again and getting them all cleaned, and sending them to dialysis centers and health care places where they would have a second life.”
It is apparent that community support helped drive Masks for Monterey County to reach out to many communities and provide approximately 8,000 facemasks to those who were in need of them. Toula reflected back on all the work she and her community had done. “We don't have a single negative experience from this at all.”
To learn more about Masks for Monterey County, take a look at their Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/masksformontereycounty/community/
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