SPOTSWOOD, NJ - Christine Munoz began making masks on a small scale to help a local urgent care. She fashioned 30 masks for the doctors and nurses to put over their N95 protective gear. It didn't take her long to realize there was a much larger call for this simple gesture as area hospitals struggle to keep their healthcare workers protected from the coronavirus while they work on the frontline of the infection.
"I started small with my own supplies and small batch, and I was the only one producing these masks," Munoz explained.
She decided to move the project to a larger scale and the Middlesex Mask Project was born. One post to the We Are Spotswood Facebook page asking for donations of fabric kicked off the campaign and volunteers from all age groups stepped up throughout the community and beyond.
"I was overwhelmed with the amount of donations I received, so then I knew I could make a bigger impact by creating a group and involving other volunteers that were willing to help out," Munoz continued. "The Middlesex Mask Project motto is Together We Achieve More. The number of people interested in collaborating was amazing. That is when I decided to group volunteers in phases. Phase one are my cutters and phase two are the sewers. Then I have a volunteer, Gil Sousa from Gil’s Consulting LLC, that has a pick up truck that will be delivering the masks to a nurse curbside."
All the directions, donations and phases of the Middlesex Mask Project are handling using social distancing guidelines with drop offs and pickups being done without direct contact from the participants.
Munoz's team includes the material donors Ellen Lafferty, Arthur Saracino, Mary Hansen Puschel, Mary Ann Stewart Raps, Susan Dwyer, Lauren Margaret and Barbara Mann, the cutters Sharyn Nash Bidetti, Nicole Vasile, Erica Rosenberg DaRocha, Jaymie Guglielmo, Renee Weseloski-Parlitsis, Rochelle La Rosa Fennell, Barbara Vasile-Abbate, Suzanne Roque Krainski, Vickie Pais and Isabel Costa-Khichi as well as the sewers Dulce Gregorio Corticeiro, Carol Foster Komoniesky, Melissa Costa, Dawn A Jaedicke-Frederick, Jennifer Lyse Cifuentes, Jaime Rae Albright, Karen McKernan Gomm, Lauren Margaret, Sue Marotto Nardino, Grace Parlitsis, Sharon Nash Bidetti and Mariana Tareco. In addition to organizing the project, Munoz is a part of the sewing team. Sousa handles the distribution and is also pitching in on the cutting aspect. Many of the volunteers have gotten their children involved in the endeavor.
The masks were recently received by a nurse from Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital and shared with Saint Peters University Hospital. Both hospitals were running low on protective masks for their healthcare workers. Some hand-crafted face shields will also be heading to Monmouth Medical Center in Long Branch.
On Friday, an emergency room nurse from Raritan Bay Medical Center reached out to Munoz via social media to see if headbands with buttons or surgical caps could be fashioned to help her and her team protect their ears from becoming raw. Munoz and her team of volunteers are on it, but could use donations of headbands and buttons. Anyone who would like to donate to the cause through materials or manpower can contact Munoz through the Middlesex Mask Project Facebook page.