TAMPA, Fla. — For more than a year, The Mask Project Tampa Bay has been helping the community by providing thousands of free face masks. Now with vaccine rates climbing and new CDC guidelines, the group is shutting down.
“It’s just amazing like I don’t even know how it happened,” said Danielle Sullivan, Co-Founder of The Mask Project Tampa Bay.
Since March 2020, The Mask Project Tampa Bay, a group that started on Facebook and quickly blew up, has been sewing free face masks for the community. They've donated more than 75,000 masks.
“Just to be able to pull everybody together, and so quickly, and to have the response that we did, we had no idea,” said Sullivan.
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In just a matter of days, people from all over the Tampa Bay area were joining the group. It has more than 4,600 members right now.
Everyone had one coming goal: to protect the community during a time of uncertainty.
“Everybody coming together and word of mouth and having social media to kind of bring us all together was very special,” said Sullivan.
Thousands of volunteers across 10 counties in the area answered the call for help.
“Seeing everybody work together, put differences aside, politics aside, and just work towards one common goal which is the greater good of our community and our people and their health and their safety and that to me is just a very special thing,” said Sullivan.
There were so many people who wanted to pitch in, group leaders were having a hard time keeping up with the volunteer intake.
“In retrospect, it’s really hard to kind of like look back and think like how it happens because it just kind of — boom — happened,” said Sullivan.
In the past 15 months, they have donated 75,695 handmade masks to hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and anyone who reached out and say they needed help.
“With all donated funds, donated supplies, and that in itself is just mind-blowing. It seems impossible but we did it,” said Sullivan.
The group's work was especially crucial when hospitals were running out of personal protective equipment.
“The response from the community is really what made it so overwhelmingly amazing,” said Sullivan.
It took a lot of coordination but leaders figured out a way to have some volunteers sew masks, others picked up and dropped off supplies, and there were groups who delivered the finished masks— filling thousands of requests for free.
“Our volunteers and the speed that they were able to hand-make these masks, that’s what blew my mind,” said Sullivan.
The orders have now slowed down, and with the new CDC guidelines allowing fully vaccinated people to no longer were masks, the group has come to an end after providing an invaluable service during the pandemic.
“It was time to close everything down and shut down shop,” said Sullivan.
Now, the group is selling extra supplies to add the money to their leftover funds.
They plan to use that money to buy food for healthcare workers at local hospitals.
“We’re looking for any local restaurants that might be able to work with us on pricing so that we’re able to provide more people or more units with a meal,” said Sullivan.
If there’s any money left after that, the group wants to buy toys to donate to St. Joseph’s Children's Hospital.