Mask Makers in Santa Clarita has found a unique way to sew and donate masks for the community. Anya Smilanick and Nikki Laing started by sewing masks for friends, family, and organizations in need. When it became apparent that masks were going to be mandatory, they realized they could use some help. Three short weeks later, their group has donated over 1,500 masks to people in need, including first responders, firefighters, and law enforcement.
“Nikki would start a mask and I would finish it. We also realized that we had far more fabric then we could ever sew. So I reached out on Facebook and got a number of replies from people who were interested in helping. Nikki reworked the pattern so masks could be made as if on an assembly line, and I decided to establish the Facebook group ‘Mask Makers in Santa Clarita’ to coordinate volunteers. Within two days, over 250 people had joined the group. Within three weeks, the group completed and donated over 1,500 masks and has over 450 members.” recounts Smilanick.
Masks are primarily made out of donated materials. Various kits are created to cut fabric, make needed mask pieces, and then final masks. Volunteers sign up for kits online, pick them up, finish at home and return them. Completed masks are donated to healthcare workers, law enforcement, seniors, at-risk individuals, and anyone who still works with the public and their families.
Mask Makers in Santa Clarita asked the community for fabric donations through social media and the response they got was incredible. Quilters donated fabric and thread by the grocery bag and donations through their GoFundMe helped fill in the costs of additional materials. Supplies are hard to get; “People are out of work now and cannot afford supplies. What we find online can take weeks or months to get. We really depend on people donating what they can,” said Laing.
To help ensure social distancing, the group has set up a monitored self-serve station outside of Small Dog Creative, LLC, a marketing and design agency run by Smilanick and Joy Whittemore. “My entire team is working remotely so most of the office wasn’t used. Nikki and I now have sewing machines on desks, and fulfill orders in the lobby,” said Smilanick.
Over 50 volunteers have stepped up to pitch in; most pick up new kits daily. Volunteers who cannot sew help prepare materials and drop off kits and masks for people who do not drive. “We are so grateful to the amazing team of volunteers in our community who have made mask making on this scale possible. Many may still work or need to home-school. The hours they dedicate to this project are incredible,” said Laing.
“Mask Makers in Santa Clarita is about much more than making masks. It’s creating friendships and a community for those in isolation. Instead of watching the news and feeling helpless, we are able to be part of the solution, if even in a small way. It provides a sense of purpose during a difficult time,” said Smilanick.
Smilanick has a personal connection to the work. “During WWII my grandmother worked at McClellan Air Force Base in Sacramento assembling instruments for the US Air Force. She was a true ‘Rosie the Riveter’. I have always been proud of her. She also taught me how to sew, by hand at first and then with a machine. She was strong and kind, and always gave more than what she took. The first fabric I donated was my grandmother’s. It was handed down to me after she passed away. I know she would have wanted it to be put to this use.”
Mask Makers in Santa Clarita is looking for community support to continue their work. It takes about 2 bolts of fabric a day (30 yards) to make the masks. They are asking for local businesses and individuals who have not been impacted financially, to step in and help by purchasing a bolt of fabric (under $100), or by making donations to their GoFundMe (SCV Mask Makers) account so they can continue production.
About Mask Makers in Santa Clarita
Mask Makers in Santa Clarita is a Facebook group started by Anya Smilanick and Nikki Laing with the mission to help Santa Clarita end the shortage of reusable masks, and ensure those on the frontlines and their families have the masks they need. Their temporary headquarters is set up at Small Dog Creative, LLC. at 25031 Avenue Stanford #70, Santa Clarita, CA 91355.
For more information visit: scvmaskmakers.com
GoFundMe: SCV Mask Makers