WINDHAM — It often takes a village to create a widespread effort of support and care, and for many volunteers and families in Windham, it also takes lot of fabric, elastic and a desire to spread goodwill and help.
Windham's own "mask squad" is hard at work, creating hundreds and hundreds of masks to donate to the homeless community, food missions, first responders, children's homes and other vulnerable families and individuals in need as the novel coronavirus, commonly referred to as COVID-19 continues to take hold.
In only three weeks, about 1,000 masks have been made, according to organizer Jagruti Patel who, along with her 12-year-old daughter, started making masks in their Buckhide Road home.
It started as that simple time spent together. Patel said she normally works at home, but in the evenings wanted to find something else to do with the family to stay connected and pass the time.
Patel said she took flat sheets, the often unused part of a sheet set in her home, and found instructions online on making masks. She created the fabric mask, leaving a slot in the fabric for someone to insert some added protection like a coffee filter or other material.
"I thought it made sense to leave a slot," she said.
With the first 20 masks completed, Patel said the number jumped quickly to 100.
The simple sewing times then truly took off in a big way, Patel said, with families, friends, students and organizations all wanting to pitch in to help.
"We started less than a month ago, doing it myself with my daughter," Patel said, "and now it's snowballed with people asking me how can they help."
It's not only about bringing people on to create the actual masks, but it's about a community force made up of other volunteers, students and families donating fabric, elastic bands and time to pick up completed masks to deliver to various spots to be used.
Patel said high school students now learning remotely at home are stepping up in a safe way to pick up masks to deliver, also compiling the high school requirements for community service time.
"They are getting their hours and staying safe," Patel said.
Families who are helping are also finding interesting new ways to connect while helping with the mask cause.
Patel said children are learning about stitching, collecting the elastics for the masks and folding the proper lengths. Mothers are ironing the fabric and fathers are even pitching in to run the sewing machines. Senior citizens who are staying safe at home are running the sewing machines for this cause.
"It's a huge family effort and assembly line," Patel said. "Everybody is coming together."
People are safely leaving fabric donations at her home with no social contact made, Patel said. Others are picking up masks ready to deliver that are safely left outside and also picking up materials to begin more mask production.
Its also about the messages people send thanking all for the masks.
Patel said she posted a video/photo collage online about the "mask squad" project with appropriate music included, "We Are the World." She said she is proud of the mask project and how the community wants to help the world.
"It's unbelievable the amount of people who have come together," she said.