Engineering students partner with mask organization

By Aliza Majid, Staff Writer

University students are partnering with MaskNow Illinois in order to help the coalition fund their work and provide masks to the public.

The MaskNow Coalition in Illinois is a national public service organization that allows people to volunteer their time to create masks for those who are unable to provide their communities with proper personal protective equipment. 

“It’s very exciting to see students wanting to make a direct impact against the pandemic, which is the most pressing and time-sensitive issue that our society is facing today,” said Ravi Thakkar, service chair for the Engineering Freshman Council.

The goal of this partnership is to provide more resources for those in the Champaign-Urbana community as well as campus members. A network of MaskNow is currently being set up at the University in order to further develop this service.

“We mostly serve health care facilities and social service organizations but we’re willing to give masks to anyone in the community who needs them and up until now I think we’ve sewn, collected and distributed about 44,000 cloth masks,” said Emma Davenport, state lead of MaskNow Illinois.

The coalition hopes to create mask patterns that are easily accessible to the general public and provide equipment for health care institutions that may not be able to purchase masks for their work. 

“Social service organizations and smaller health care facilities don’t have the means to purchase them or to compete in the supply chain market,” Davenport said. “They can’t purchase masks at bulk retail prices because they’re still very expensive at that cost so we’re filling the gap.”

A mask drive and various fundraising events are in development in order to help the coalition with mask production.

As of right now, there is a lot of focus on funding and expenses because the coalition is in need of more material to make masks and they are currently asking for donations in order to fund these services.

“Surprisingly, one of the biggest challenges I faced is my age, which surprised me,” Davenport said. “There’s a lot of outreach that I can’t do because I’m 17. I can’t apply for grants because you have to be 18 older to do that. We’re looking to our community to be able to help provide funds for us to continue shipping and buying elastic, which is incredibly expensive and that sort of thing.”

In order to help the coalition people can visit their website and sign up as a volunteer or email Emma Davenport at [email protected] for further information.

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