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Doing a Good Thing: Help Us Make Masks Minnesota

By YWCA Minneapolis
October 21, 2021
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October 21, 2021

One positive thing the pandemic showed us is the number of people willing to step up in a crisis to selflessly and generously help others. Help Us Make Masks Minnesota (HUMMM) is one example of individuals coming together to make a difference in a time of great need.

HUMMM was founded in response to the shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) for health care providers in our community in the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of these efforts, the group donated 750 masks to YWCA Children’s Centers to help protect our staff and children when PPE supplies were scarce. Below, we interviewed the founders of this initiative, Jodi Mooney BSN, MSN, Cardiology Researcher, Jocelyn Gorlin Ph.D., MSN, CPNP, and Fawzia Khan M.D. about their involvement in this project and what inspired them to take action.

What inspired you to start making and donating masks in the beginning of the pandemic?

Jodi: There was a critical shortage of masks at the onset of the pandemic, even for health professionals, and I wanted to use my background as a nurse and researcher to make a difference in our community.

Jocelyn: I teach at St. Catherine University in the Department of Nursing, Nurse Practitioner Program. Several of the students who were in graduate school were also working on the front lines. They mentioned that they needed to ration masks and had no head coverings during the beginning of the pandemic – so we decided to help.

Fawzia: I had a feeling of helplessness when COVID-19 started. I am a former physician, now a visual artist, and felt for the first time, that I was needed in my former capacity but was no longer able to contribute that way. I wanted to do something to help, so I started making masks. I told my good friend and neighbor, Jocelyn Gorlin, about my efforts and she mentioned she was interested in making masks, as well. She and Jodi Mooney came up with the idea of recruiting a number of people to produce great quantities to donate.

Can you describe the nonprofit you started?

Jodi: HUMMM was started on March 30, 2020. Our mission was to provide homemade cotton masks for health care workers, and also to provide masks for other critical needs in our community, especially for populations most at risk of exposure to COVID-19.

We recruited over 50 volunteers who provided services including washing, ironing, cutting fabric and sewing masks. Several people donated fabric and supplies. Between March 30, 2020 and April 1, 2021, we distributed over 5,200 face masks and more than 250 surgical caps! Recipients included Children’s Minnesota, Memorial Blood Centers, Hennepin County Medical Center, YWCA Minneapolis, YMCA, the Greater Minneapolis Crisis Nursery, Open Arms, plus many other organizations in our community in need of protection.

What has this project meant to you?

Jodi: Our mask-making initiative has meant a great deal to me personally, and even more to our community. It allowed us to be a cog in the wheel that helped to prevent spreading the virus in a time when there was a critical need for masks. It gave us a shared purpose, created bonds and friendships, and as one very prolific sewer said, “We did a good thing.”

Jocelyn: There was a feeling of helplessness at the time of the onset of COVID. It made me feel that it was the least I could do to help. It was great to work as a team to accomplish something meaningful.

How long, and in what ways, have you been involved with YWCA Minneapolis?

Jodi: I have been involved with the YWCA for many years. My dear friend Kate Berman, former YWCA Board Chair, invited me to YWCA events each year. It was an honor to sit at her table and to support YWCA’s mission.

Jocelyn: I have donated to YWCA Minneapolis and the president of St. Kates, Becky Roloff, is a former president and CEO and speaks highly of the organization.

Fawzia: This is my first involvement with YWCA Minneapolis. However, I have served on the board of the Ridgedale YMCA for six years.

Why does this cause matter to you?

Jodi: Providing masks to our community matters to me on many fronts. As a health professional, I knew the benefits of wearing a mask during a pandemic and more importantly the risks of not wearing a mask. My husband is a physician who works on the frontlines every day, so it was especially meaningful to provide masks to hospitals and medical facilities. As a community volunteer, it was impactful to donate to shelters and nonprofit organizations that provided services to communities that weren’t able to secure masks.

Jocelyn: I am a nurse and I knew it would help nurses on the frontlines during the pandemic.

Fawzia: I was a physician and am married to a physician. A pandemic is a unique situation where community response and public health are key to overcoming overwhelming odds. Where human life is concerned, not to mention the economy and society in general, how could it not? And this is a global situation.

What would you like to pass on to the next generation?

Jodi: I want the next generation to know how important it is to step up when there is a need and to give back to others less fortunate and know that giving of one’s time, expertise and heart is a truly rewarding and meaningful gift.

Jocelyn: I’d hope the next generation has a sense of hope, optimism and community engagement.

Fawzia: We spend a short time on this earth. Our purpose in life is to help each other with the gifts we have been given. Leave the world a better place. That is a worthy legacy.

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