Millburn, NJ — There is a bright ray of sunshine in the form of home-made protective masks and surgical hats pouring out of Millburn Township in New Jersey. Beginning on April 3 - exactly two weeks ago - one local Millburn resident and Realtor Carisa Reilly became the “Mask Lady2020.”

In a story previously covered by TAPinto Millburn/Short Hills, Reilly had set a goal of making and delivering 1,200 masks in seven days. She came exceptionally close to that goal.

Earlier today, April 17, she and her team successfully delivered 1,085 masks and 115 scrub caps to local police, fire and first responders as well as hospitals, medical facilities and essential workers.

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“The efforts of MaskLady2020, and our team The Mask Makers for NJ Workers are not only benefiting our own workers and citizens but is reaching several of our underserved neighboring communities in Essex County.” Reilly said. “Many of these communities are our neighbors too ... but due to socioeconomic and logistic obstacles, they don’t have access to the protective equipment and supplies they desperately need.”

Local Millburn residents and businesses have donated a total of $3,865, ranging in amounts from $20 to $250 to MaskLady2020. While some of the materials and fabric have been donated by residents and businesses, additional money is needed to make more masks and caps at the cost of $2.00 per mask and up to $6.00 for a scrub cap. 

Reilly leads The Mask Makers for NJ Workers team which is made up of about a dozen local residents, including school children who are helping in between their remote learning sessions.

Members of the team are donating their time to complete the cycle of mask making as an assembly line: from washing and ironing the fabric, to cutting, sewing and affixing metal nose pieces and elastic. A separate team of 3 residents has been delivering the goods to the local hospitals, township essential workers and local businesses.

Reilly explained, “It’s a wonderful learning and caring experience for people of any age — especially young people including my twin teenage daughters, to be part of an effort that they know will protect others. It has been equally thrilling to see people who have never cut a pattern learn how to fabric do it, or someone who hasn’t sewn in 20 years dusting off their sewing machine to help someone they don’t know is a very powerful motivation for anyone.”

Millburn Mayor Jackie Lieberberg commented, “We are blessed with a wonderful generous community, with residents who have roots throughout the world. Several have communicated with relatives in other countries who were ahead of us on this and brought Carisa excellent suggestions and solutions.” 

Lieberberg added, “As humans, and proud citizens of Millburn, we have a responsibility to not only help our own community but go beyond our borders and help our local underserved communities.” 

For Reilly, she is guided by her own personal mantra from living in the UK as a public housing advocate and community organizer, “Every Little Helps, Mend and Make Do and Keep Calm and Carry On.”

Reilly admits she has a lot of hard work ahead as the public will likely be needing PPE for months to come. 

“We’ve successfully harnessed the skills and will of the people to help others," Reilly said. "It’s an all-around win: we are employing seamstresses in the local communities, learning new skills, building social capital, and most important, giving the gift of charity that helps others, and makes us feel good. 

"I believe the team is very proud of their work and contribution.” We hope other communities will reach out to us if they are interested in learning how they too can provide organize to provide the much-needed protective masks and caps for their community and beyond."

Interested residents can reach Carisa at themasklady2020@gmail.com, and donations can be sent to the GoFundMe site here: https://www.gofundme.com/f/the-mask-makers-for-nj-workers?utm_source=customer&utm_medium=copy_link-tip&utm_campaign=p_cp+share-sheet