Mask makers expand to help their communities and beyond

Tim McFadden of Viera enjoys making masks to help people.

In the face of the coronavirus pandemic, people are finding new ways to use their skills to help those in need.

Project Linus, a non-profit organization that makes blankets for children in crisis, decided to expand its reach. Since starting out by making 250 masks for a senior living facility, Project Linus has gained more than 500 volunteers in Brevard County within the first month through Facebook. Now it is making thousands.

Jill Blue, publisher of Viera Voice and Senior Life, contacted their organization to acquire masks for complimentary senior COVID-19 PPE kits. They responded by donating 800 masks for the Senior Life Drive-Thru Senior Expo.

Everyone involved donates their time, effort and supplies, as well as hand delivering the masks to their destination. The masks are made to help anyone in need, from healthcare workers and their patients, the elderly and children returning to school. 

Project Linus coordinator Mary Ann Laverty and the rest of her team have been so grateful for all the support and positive responses from the community and those who received masks. Even some recipients have joined the cause.

"Like everyone, I didn’t know how long and how serious the virus was gonna be," Laverty said. 

With more than 7,000 masks given to schools and 4,000 to cancer patients, Project Linus volunteers estimate they have made more than 30,000 masks, with more to come.

It’s "very rewarding to have a group of people helping another group of people" Laverty said. "I just want to thank everyone who has helped so long. So thankful for them and appreciate all their effort."

Other groups and individuals also have been making masks to help their community. Brevard Mask Makers, or Masketeers as they’re known, started their endeavor in March by giving to medical facilities. The effort quickly expanded to several hundred volunteers. 

"I want to do what I can for the community," said Deb Shirley, one of the Masketeer members. The group has made more than 26,000 masks since August and plan to keep going. 

Their efforts are not for profit, with the volunteers generously giving their time and materials. They said everyone who has received masks, ranging from schools to hospitals, has been very grateful.

"It feels like I have been able to do something," Shirley said. "It has brought me such joy."

Another pair of mask makers have expanded their reach beyond their local community. Viera resident Tim McFadden, along with his wife Wendy, have been sharing their masks worldwide. 

With a desire to help others wherever the need arose, the McFadden family has sent out more than 900 masks. From the U.S. Marine Corps in Okinawa, to the U.S. Air Force Base and schools in Yokota, Japan, and a Marine base in Spain, the McFadden’s masks have served many.

They also have shipped masks to England, to a resource association for female law enforcers in California, and both the fire department and police department in West New York, New Jersey.

"The gift is in the giving," Wendy McFadden said. 

They have received overwhelming expressions of thanks from their recipients.

They also plan to make special Christmas masks in the coming months. 

"It’s giving us focus and something to do," Tim McFadden said. All the McFadden’s masks are not-for-profit and come in a wide range of designs.