Giving Tuesday was established in 2012. It started with a simple idea of enabling people to do good for others. It has grown into a global movement that inspires people annually to give time or money; to uplift one another and our communities; to encourage generosity and empathy. For more information on this movement, click here.
When Sophia Eng began making homemade masks, she never anticipated that making masks for a local hospital would turn into a bustling non-profit company.
This was not her usual career or hobby. She and her family felt compelled to fill the need for them as they read about the shortages for medical workers around the country. They had the time as they were following Shelter-In-Place orders at home in San Francisco; she had the materials; a friend gave her a template and simple instructions. So she and her family – to included her husband, 2 kids, sister, and mother – went to work.
But after a Facebook post about dropping off their final products to their local hospital, this grew into more than a few masks.
The demand was much larger than anyone could anticipate. In her piece for San Francisco Bay Area Moms, Sophia recalls waking up the next day to a request for even more from a doctor in Florida. She also received a monetary donation to make them for another person; a Whole Foods worker that wanted them for work; more medical workers in various fields. She recalls,
‘I felt excited that people wanted what I was making, it was bittersweet. It saddened me to realize that doctors found themselves in such a desperate situation that they were willing to pay a complete stranger across the country for masks.’
After making more for her community while continuing to receive requests from all over the country and watching the COVID-19 crisis grow, she knew that this small operation was not enough. So together with 4 colleagues and friends, they created We Have Masks.
What is We Have Masks?
I was able to talk to Sophia and learn more about her team and how their organization works.
This non-profit organization was started not even 2 months ago! These incredible women created a way to get masks, both professional-grade and handmade, into the hands of those that need them the most. Since its official start date of March 22, We Have Masks has sent over 11,000 manufactured and handmade masks around the country.
The organization works in 3 ways:
- I Need Masks: a person or company can request masks through their website. Requests are filled based on need and what is currently available and can be for personal or professional reasons. We Have Masks works to procure as many N95 masks and can also accommodate uniform requirements (for military, etc.).
- I Have Masks: the organization works with volunteers who have masks premade or would like to sew masks. Volunteers can do things as simple as cutting materials or can even help contact larger facilities for mask procurement. Submitting a form through their website, a volunteer is guided through the process by Sophia and her team.
- I Can Donate: the biggest thing that We Have Masks can utilize are monetary donations. All funds are used to purchase supplies for volunteers or to procure professional-grade products. Every dollar helps put desperately needed masks into the hands of those who need them. For every $100 donated, they are able to procure 25 N95 masks. As these are meant to be single-use, you can imagine how quickly these go in a hospital setting. The organization makes it super easy to donate on their website and through multiple platforms.
Why Donate to We Have Masks?
The simple answer is this: there is a shortage of masks, and this organization is filling this need. They are filling it with speed and efficiency, and they are doing this without any personal gain or income. Their mission and operations are stated right on their site:
“We get masks to those who need them the most by filling the gap between suppliers and facilities at no cost to either end, thanks to donations and community mask-makers.”
But this organization is close to our heart for more than just this reason.
We Have Masks was founded by a military spouse and is run by military spouses and female professionals. Their drive and initiative are so indicative of the military spirit and community. When the going gets tough, you can count on military families (and spouses in particular) to pull together and get things done. In the piece mentioned above, Sophia said it best:
I reached out to my military spouses, and what we have now is a modern Rosie the Riveter movement. Military spouses are just wired a different way from the rest of the world. We activate when our soldiers are in harm’s way and they need our help. In this case, our soldiers are the doctors, nurses, pulmonary specialists, and all of the frontline workers.
So today, on Giving Tuesday, consider donating to We Have Masks.
There are multiple ways to get involved, even if it means just sharing their information and website. We are all #inthistogether, and every little bit of help and support counts. This non-profit is providing an amazing service to those who need it most.
Thank you to Sophia Eng for chatting with me and providing more information on We Have Masks! For information about the organization and how to help, please see their website here.
They have also been featured on Military.com with other military spouses making masks. Thank you to all of those for volunteering your time and goods!