Photo by Steve Jeter/American Red Cross

The need to remain six feet apart from one another while wearing a mask is imperative during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even with a pandemic, this does not stop us as we continue to help make a difference in the lives of those in need.

The Eastern New York Region hosted an event, “Operation: Sew Some Love,” with volunteers sewing face coverings for members of the military, veterans and their families. “The goal is to embrace our roots while helping soldiers.” Regional Service to the Armed Forces (SAF) Program Manager Dustin Chavez explained. “It is about embracing the community connection and filling voids within each other to diversify the message.” Chavez and his SAF team have delivered over 1,000 masks to VA clinics and veterans services agencies throughout Eastern New York.

The American Red Cross has provided comfort and care to service members, veterans and their families for over 130 years. In particular, the Red Cross developed programs to knit socks and helmet liners, sew coverings for casts and crochet/quilt lap blankets. This legacy continues during the current pandemic crisis. A current need exists for face coverings to wear on military installations, in communities and other areas where they are required. The volunteer workforce of the Red Cross joins with thousands of others to help make and distribute these coverings.

This event is a further reflection of the legacy of American Red Cross Founder Clara Barton.  Barton risked her life to bring supplies and support to soldiers in the field during the Civil War. She founded the Red Cross in 1881 and led it for the next 23 years. Her understanding of the ways she could provide help to people in distress guided her throughout her life.

“Operation: Sew Some Love” volunteers partnered with NY COVID-19 Masked Avengers based in the Hudson Valley. In particular, Founder Rena Leinberger and “Mask Maven” Lynn Esteban made the collaboration possible. Their mission is to provide handmade and donated PPE for vulnerable populations. They provided our volunteers with supplies needed to create the masks. As an organization, NY COVID-19 Masked Avengers has sent more than 55,000 masks out to hospitals, healthcare facilities, and grassroots organizations.

A relatively new Red Cross volunteer, Susan Valente participated in the local initiative. She joined the Red Cross last fall, explaining that the Red Cross is very respectable and does a great job serving our communities. She enjoys sewing in her spare time and found that this event is a great opportunity to provide those in need with masks. The volunteers met virtually, and she enjoys the experience of seeing everyone participate for a great cause. “Without Red Cross, where would all these people be?” Susan stated. “Someone has to help.” The local volunteers met their goal of making 1,000 masks during a period from Martin Luther King Jr. Day until Valentine’s Day.

Wear A Mask

Wearing a mask can protect you and other from the dangerous effects of COVID-19. Help stop the spread and stay safe.

Story by: Communications Intern Sierra Fryson, Syracuse University S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications