When the coronavirus pandemic hit, we all felt a bit helpless. And while some of us may have gotten stuck in the “what now” phase, others jumped into action in a pretty amazing way. One of those who came to save the day was Kristina Wong, an actress and comedian, who was set to go on a country-wide tour before COVID-19 became the new reality. Wong took note of how difficult people were finding it to get masks, the medical community included, and knew she had to help.
With scraps of fabric she found around the house, she began to make masks for those in need. Wong had learned to sew in home economics class at a young age and though she was no expert, she frequently sewed her own props for shows. She knew she could tackle masks. She posted on Facebook, offering the masks up for free, asking only for reimbursement for postage. Soon, the demand far surpassed anything she could have completed on her own. That’s when Wong had the idea to make her vision for helping others even bigger.
Teamwork Makes the Dreamwork
When Wong realized that she needed to recruit some new members to her sewing team, she banded together withsome friends and followers and formed a Facebook group called Auntie Sewing Squad. The group started with twenty-six people but it grew and grew. Now, there are more than 800 sewers who are located around the U.S., who have distributed more than 55,000 masks already, and they just keep going.
While Wong was incredibly grateful for all who volunteered for this initiative, she also acknowledged that their efforts should not really be needed. When being interviewed by MSN, Wong said, “While we are enjoying each other’s company…we shouldn’t have to be doing this work. This is absolutely the government’s job. We should not have had to turn our homes upside down into sweatshops and pull the sheets off our beds to make masks.”
Lending a Hand to the Vulnerable
Though they’ve helped all types of people with their homemade masks, the Aunties are especially passionate about providing masks to those people who are a part of the more vulnerable population. These groups include farmworkers, immigrants, Native Americans and Black and Brown citizens.
Specifically, the partnership they formed with the Native American community ended up being a hugely meaningful one. In South Dakota’s Bear Soldier District, there are many elderly and immunocompromised members of the community who don’t have access to protective equipment. Within the Navajo Nation, thirty-three percent of residents live without running water or electricity; so masks go a long way. The Aunties also provided other essential materials, like diapers, baby wipes, and sanitizers, plus sewing machines so they can start making their own masks.
Keep the Good Deeds Coming
The Auntie Sewing Squad can be found all over the country. Many of the volunteers have their own full-time jobs and families to take care of, but that doesn’t stop them from using every spare minute they have to make more masks. There are regular announcements made about groups that have requested masks. Any of the Aunties who have the time can pledge to complete some by a certain deadline.
Some of the Aunties have even stepped up to do more, and have been termed Super Aunties. These members act as representatives of the organization and continue to help grow the group and ensure that those volunteering have everything they need to make a difference. These Super Aunties also orchestrate the refunding of postage costs to any Aunties who paid out of pocket to get their masks to a specified location. It’s crystal clear that this Sewing Squad isn’t going anywhere soon.
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