Jillian Batiuk ’21 received a Community Action Grant for the summer of 2020. Read her testimonial below about she made and distributed masks. 

Headshot of Jillian Batiuk

Jillian Batiuk ’21

My initial project was making masks for anyone in my community who needed them because at the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic, there was a large mask shortage and companies had not yet started mass-producing masks. I already knew how to sew and had a sewing machine available to use in my house, so when hospitals started running out of PPE, I researched if cloths masks were effective and how to make them.

I started making two different types of masks. One was a simple fabric mask that I made in multiple sizes. The other mask was more challenging because it involved another piece of fabric that could hold a filter that I made for people working in hospitals. The idea for these masks were to provide an extra level of safety that is generally unnecessary in everyday life but important for medical workers. Although I knew hospitals did not allow cloth masks to be work while seeing patients, I was not sure what they were going to do when they ran out of surgical masks and I wanted to be prepared.

Front and back of surgical masks, on the left you can see the additional slit that filter paper can be inserted into

Front and back of surgical masks, on the left you can see the additional slit that filter paper can be inserted into

Initially, I was using local sources to distribute masks, such as the community website, stores with drop-boxes, and local shelters that distributed them. When those sources began to fill up on resources, I put up an ad on my community neighborhood site that announced I was making masks in different sizes if people wanted them.

After the initial wave of everyone desperately needing masks, I joined my friend who was making care packages for house-less people living in Portland. I put in a few masks to each package as well as biodegradable soap for them to be able to clean their masks and allow them to dry while they still had a few spare masks to wear.

Masks and wash included in care packages

Masks and wash included in care packages

During the initial Black Lives Matter protests that happened this summer, people would bring masks to give out to other people, so I started embroidering the masks I was making with BLM and I would hand them out at the protests. Everything was free but if people wanted to donate any money, I directed them to local BLM resources that I supported. I also brought unembroidered masks to the protests to be donated to communities in need of help.

Kids masks and a few of the fabric patterns I was using for them

Kids masks and a few of the fabric patterns I was using for them

This project gave me a lot of purpose during the summer because I felt like I was helping my community from my home. I wasn’t allowed to leave my house much for the first couple months because my whole family works in healthcare and we were all trying to limit our contact with each other and with the rest of the world, so I was only allowed to leave the house to drop masks off at local donation sites or to drive through Portland to drop off the care packages. An unexpected perk of this project is when I noticed how many masks were littered on the streets and being found in the ocean, and I was happy that my project was able to help people while avoiding creating additional waste.