RANDOLPH TOWNSHIP, NJ (Morris County) – Helping healthcare and other workers during this time of crisis are six fashion design students, their professors and several employees at County College of Morris (CCM) who are making face masks to protect those working on the front line during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What helping people in this way means to me is making an impact,” says Emil Desena, of Randolph, one of the students working on the project. “Even just on a small, local level, it’s still important, and I’m glad that I’m able to use my passion for sewing and creating in a way that helps others.”
The project began after faculty learned that some students had started making masks during the college’s spring break in March and as hospitals and other organizations started asking for personal protective equipment (PPE) for their employees.
“As the design faculty migrated to online classes we lost our ability to deliver coursework using our traditional hands-on teaching methods,” says Professor Kelly Whalen, who oversees the design programs at CCM. “Faculty and students shared research and information about acceptable mask designs that would be useful to a variety of facilities and individuals. A few videos, recommended by healthcare organizations and others, were selected, providing clear instruction on how to construct the masks. Faculty then chose to adopt the project in their Introduction to Sewing, Design Concepts I & II and Fashion Construction II classes.”
Whalen is serving as coordinator of the face mask project, while Professors Anita Collins and Wendy Carmona are working closely with the students and making masks themselves. Several CCM staff members also have become involved in the project, making it a college-wide effort.
To date the students and professors have made nearly 200 masks, including several child-sized masks that will be donated to a pediatric healthcare facility in the next few days. Masks have already been delivered to a hematology and oncology facility affiliated with Morristown Medical Center, as well as to Compassionate Care healthcare workers in Sparta. Others that have received, or will be receiving masks soon, are Saint Clare’s hospitals in Denville and Dover, Overlook Hospital and workers at UPS.
“It’s real-world problem solving, as we have had to organize distributing fabric, sourcing elastic, identifying places in need and then getting the masks to where they are needed, while adhering to the social distancing and disinfectant protocols,” Whalen said.
Students are either using fabric they have on hand or received at a recent equipment distribution event the college held for students, faculty and staff earlier this month. Whalen has been receiving the finished masks via home mailboxes and trunk exchanges. Regarding delivery of the masks, they are given to people CCM students, faculty and staff know at the facilities that are looking for PPE for their workers.
“I have shared with the students that their knowledge of sewing and design is an essential skill that impacts the world,” Collins said. “As fashion designers, they are able to create wearable items that not just make people look and feel beautiful, but also protect them and help to save lives.”
Other students making face masks are Jenna Lentz, of Fairfield; Taylor Moss, of West Orange; Louis Smith, of Basking Ridge; and Nieasia Wilkins, of Budd Lake. CCM employees helping with the project include Rosemary Grant, Brian Kafel and Jeri LaBruna and also Adjunct Professor Gregory Somjen.
“I feel very happy and humbled to know that something I love doing can help others stay safe,” says Devyn Orozco, of Lake Hiawatha, another student making masks. “I believe that every little bit counts, and together we can help stop the spread of the virus.”