Volunteers work together to make face masks for city’s hospitals

face mask making
Yvonne Chu and a group of local seamstresses are creating face masks for hospitals in need.
Yvonne Chu

A hodgepodge of handy Brooklynites have banded together to make face masks for hospital workers — and have already delivered more than 200 to workers in need!

“It’s just a neighborhood push, and we want to help any way we can,” said Dani Finkel, a Boerum Hill resident coordinating the effort. “There are doctors at these hospitals that are desperate to get their nurses and staff something.” 

The effort comes as hospitals across the city are running out of personal protective gear, jeopardizing the lives of healthcare workers and patients. A group of workers at NYU Bellevue say they have less than one week’s supply remaining. 

To help fill the gaps, around March 20, a group of local seamstresses decided to start the South Brooklyn Mask Making Project after they first posted about their mask-making efforts in a Boerum Hill Facebook group. Soon, the coalition came together.

“I started making face masks because I saw there was a need for them and I wanted to keep some of my seamstresses busy,” said Yvonne Chu, the owner of a custom dress boutique called Kimera on Atlantic Avenue. “A couple of us got started separately, but we ended up finding each other online.”

Chu and other local seamstresses began recruiting neighbors through the group, and found volunteers willing to coordinate their efforts, donate funds, make deliveries, and sew more masks. Within hours, the small team of devoted workers was posting mask-making instructions for volunteer sewers — and reaching people across the borough.

“It’s a great thing to do if you have some time on your hands,” said Finkel, a digital media strategist who volunteered to be the group’s coordinator. “You can get up to speed after a couple of days practicing it.”

face mask making
The seamstresses make masks from the fabrics in their clothing stores, resulting in funky, stylish designs.Dani Finkel

The team makes masks with and without filter inserts, as well as folded masks — all of which are washable and reusable. The team’s creations are not as effective as N95 masks, but they still provide needed protection.

“A lot of people know someone who’s working at a hospital or people desperate for these items,” Finkel said. 

At least seven other hospitals in need have requested mask shipments so far, including New York Presbyterian and Mount Sinai in Brooklyn. On Monday, the team delivered 145 masks to Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, and nearly 100 to NYU Langone in Manhattan. 

The group aims to start making more than 200 masks per week, and hopes to expand and standardize its production, Finkel said. They may even partner with local eateries that are delivering free meals to hospitals.

In the meantime, locals willing to help can drop off cotton fabric donations, such as used t-shirts, outside the Kimera store at 366 Atlantic Ave.

We’re working on a GoFundMe so that we can include masks in some of their deliveries,” Finkel said. “Every mask counts.”