Route 1 Mask Match provides homemade cloth masks to area residents
By Sophie Gorman Oriani
A group of committed craftivists is doing their part to slow the spread of coronavirus, one cloth mask at a time. A group called Route 1 Mask Match (R1MM) organizes local volunteers to sew and distribute masks to those in need.
After a discussion on Facebook about distributing cloth masks along with the laptops being distributed to public school students, “a few of us got to talking offline,” said Laura Usher, one of the R1MM coordinators, “and that’s how this thing got started.”
R1MM is an all-volunteer organization, with a team of volunteer coordinators to help keep the process running smoothly. Usher says there are 20 volunteers behind the scenes managing supplies and working on the website and social media, and “probably 35 to 40” volunteers sewing masks. “It’s a pretty big crew,” she laughed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where keeping a 6-foot distance is difficult. Moreover, Prince George’s County has legally required face coverings on public transportation and in stores since April 15.
“It’s really important that we get as many masks out as we possibly can,” said Usher, noting the high number of COVID-19 cases in the area.
“We’re extremely fortunate that the Hyattsville community has been a huge part of this growing movement,” said Usher. While R1MM serves an area extending from the Beltway to Eastern Avenue, in between New Hampshire Avenue and the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, “a lot of our … core supporters are in Hyattsville,” she added.
As of May 24, volunteer crafters had supplied R1MM with 3,600 masks, all of which were already donated or spoken for. “It keeps growing,” said Usher. “It’s pretty remarkable!” Just four days later, Usher announced on Facebook that the group had passed the 4,000 mask mark.
“The sewers that are involved are just incredible,” Usher added, noting how they share tips and encouragement in the R1MM Facebook group. “It’s really all of their energy that … makes this possible.”
Rozanne Wijesinghe oversees inventory for R1MM. She matches donated supplies with sewers in need of materials, and manages the flow of masks in and out of the organization. She says her favorite aspect of working with R1MM is “see[ing] the incredible talent and creativity in making masks of all shapes and sizes.”
R1MM is still looking for volunteers, especially crafters who can sew masks and individuals to reach out in the community. “We would love to find someone who could be a bilingual volunteer,” Usher said.
Wijesinghe echoed Usher’s call for volunteers. She called R1MM “a great way to connect with people (with appropriate distancing),” adding that “there is a job for everyone at every skill level.”
For more information and to get involved, visit www.route1maskmatch.org or www.facebook.com/groups/route1maskmatch, or follow @route1maskmatch on Instagram