You may not have heard of the MaskMVMT before. But we’re the kind of grassroots, team-led mutual-aid organization that keeps our focus on the mission and makes the most of every penny. Over 20,000 high-quality, durable face masks are now in the hands of people who truly need them.
We knew from the beginning that people of color and those experiencing poverty would be more severely impacted by the pandemic. Elderly and those with health conditions at high risk of hospitalization or death also desperately needed help. Everyone needed masks, and the government was a long way from doing much to help folks in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro. Our neighbors were being forced to take risks working in grocery stores and fast food kitchens, with no protection from customers or each other. Buying masks (if you could even find them) at $10 each for every family member meant making tough choices about food and other bills. As businesses closed during the shutdown and government support was inadequate to non-existent, masks were beyond the financial reach of many.
So first, we made sure that anything we made would both work and last as long as possible. We relied on the many unique skill sets within our group. One team created a good pattern and determined what materials result in an effective mask (see the results in our Tutorials). Second, we created this website that allows anyone with an Internet connection to put in a request, be it for an individual, a family, or an organization. We found volunteers to deliver masks right to the doorsteps and mailboxes of individuals and families. We made this website work for our volunteer sewists to let us know when they needed materials kits or when masks were ready for pickup. We took the financial and a good part of the labor burden off our sewists, pooling resources and creating kits of pre-cut materials. We lost sleep and living space to the distributed mask kitting, sewing and delivery machine we created. We destroyed several sewing machines with over-use. We burnt out emotionally and kept going.
In September of 2020, we delivered our 20,000th mask. And we’re not done.
Along the way, we cemented many partnerships. The Northeast Minneapolis Mask Makers joined the MaskMVMT.org network in April, and provided some of the most hard-core sewists and materials donors. Steve Kriesel, owner of TorpedoTextiles.com, donated masks from his company and made it possible for us to catch up by late August. Innovize, a contract manufacturer of medical devices, allowed us to use their equipment to mass-cut material for our kits. And we’ve developed relationships with dozens of organizations to get masks into the hands of people who truly need them, from community groups focused on neighborhoods or immigrant populations, to non-profits providing food and shelter to those struggling the most.
How have we paid for the materials? We simply ask people to pay what they can, if they can, and we ask others (via social media) to contribute if they have resources. All the money we raise goes to materials costs or to keep the website up. Not a single member of the MaskMVMT gets paid for their work.
And we’re still not done. While the state and local governments have taken some steps to put this important tool against the pandemic in the hands of people who can’t afford them, the number of masks provided don’t come close to meeting the demand. Organizations doing great outreach work in underserved communities have voiced the need for hundreds more masks.
If you are interested in being part of the MaskMVMT, contact us. If you have the ability, donate to our ongoing fight to mask up anyone in the Twin Cities who wants to do their part to decrease the spread of COVID-19.