More than 2,000 strong, Project Mask WS is like a factory spread out across Winston-Salem.

Just one month after they started making medical face masks, Marissa Joyce, Katie Sonnen Lee, Melissa Vickers have distributed 25,000 masks to healthcare providers, recruited more than 2,000 volunteers and raised more than $25,000 to by supplies and mask materials.

When the Journal first wrote about them on March 29, they had been sewing for a week and had made 2,000 masks.

The masks are being used by a number of facilities and doctors' offices, including Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, Novant, Davie County EMS and Salem Chest Specialists.

"Never in our wildest dreams did we think that this idea to help health care workers would grow to this magnitude: the number of hours logged, the number of donations, the number of volunteers it's become a fulltimem job - with overtime," Vickers said. "And the initiative that people have taken.

"The reason we have a website is that because Brooke Farmer, one of our logistics people, just did one for us." 

Farmer coordinates all of the drivers who take materials to the makers.

"We have sites all over town, called mask caves, where people drop of finished masks and pick up kits that let you sew 24 masks," Vickers said.

Volunteers sister and brother Desiree Moraes, 18, and Aden Moraes, 14, have made more than 170 masks in the past two weeks.

Their mother, Wendy Moraes, works for Collins Aerospace as a buyer, and father, Euphermiano Moraes, works for Hanesbrands. Both are working from home and sheltering in place with their children.

Wendy Moraes joined Project Mask WS, but the teens ended up making most of the masks.

"I started making masks to have something else to do with myself while I'm at home," Moraes said. "Desiree and Aden saw me and said, 'What are you doing?' I didn't think they'd want to do it, because it requires sewing.

"But once they started doing it, they didn't want to stop. Desiree has diabetes, and she was having a hard time with her blood sugar all over the place, and I think this gave her something she could have some control over."

The teenagers worked out a division of labor, Moraes said. "Desiree would cut. Aden would iron and sew. Then she would attach the elastic. Sometimes I would help, but mostly they would coordinate it for themselves."

The family set a goal to make 100 masks, but exceeded that by more than 70 masks.

"I am really proud of them," Moraes said. "So many years from now, they will remember that they did this together."

The teens are also doing scouting projects while they study at home. Desiree is working toward her Gold Award, and Aden is a Life Scout working toward his Eagle. Both youngsters are cooking for the family, Moraes said. 

Ratchit Kulkarni, 11, son of Gauri Kulkarni, a researcher at Wake Forest University, has made a YouTube video showing how to make the Project Mask WS masks.

"The fact that he took the initiative to do that is just amazing," Vickers said. "The reason that we've grown so much is that the volunteers have been willing to run with more than we ask for.

"We have an intense supply chain, and we find spots for all volunteers. If you can't sew, you can cut elastic."

The masks have two layers of high-quality,180-thread count cotton fabric and elastic straps. The design has been approved by researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Health to use in situations where an N95 mask is not warranted.

They can be washed, dried and used multiple times. The makers wash all the donated fabric that comes in and recommend that the masks be run through your clothes dryer on high for 30 minutes between outings.

Project Mask WS has directions about how medical professionals can get the masks, patterns, kits and other information on their Facebook page and website.

(336) 727-7298


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