A Grassroots Campaign Supports Essential Workers During COVID-19

Sewing for a Special CauseJune 28, 2020

COVID-19 may be keeping people apart physically, but it brought the community together in an amazing way through a mask-making campaign started by respiratory therapist Cindy Frith-Smith.

From the outset of the pandemic, Frith-Smith has been on the front lines helping to support and manage respiratory care for COVID patients at Palmdale Regional Medical Center and elsewhere as a per diem respiratory therapist. Early on, as she became aware of the national shortages of protective equipment, she set out to form a group to make cloth masks for her coworkers. "My director at Palmdale Regional, Jim Elvington, was extremely supportive, he even donated fabric," she says.

A local reporter did a story about her, and her idea grew into an expansive grassroots campaign, 10K Face Masks, devoted to making masks for healthcare providers and essential workers around the region. Using social media as a platform, Frith-Smith reached out for donations of supplies and volunteers, and the support came pouring in. By early May, the group of about 440 volunteers had made close to 4,500 masks and continued making progress toward its goal of providing 10,000 masks for essential workers in organizations such as hospice, home health, the California Highway Patrol and local hospitals. "It's so amazing," says Frith-Smith.

While the campaign is now winding down, it has provided a tremendous sense of purpose for everyone involved, says Frith-Smith. From the people who donated fabric and made the masks, to the delivery drivers and volunteers who helped organize this major undertaking, it has been a labor of love. People know their efforts have gone to support the front-line workers they have in their minds, says Frith-Smith. "That is a huge reward."