Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade makes progress during Most Mask Makers Challenge
To save lives during the pandemic, the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade is using its network of volunteers to make more than 30,000 masks.
After realizing that there was going to be a shortage of vital personal protective equipment in March, the brigade started its Most Mask Makers Challenge. The project invites local volunteer seamstresses and sewists to make masks to help reduce the local spread of COVID-19.
Since the Most Mask Makers Challenge began April 7, volunteers have made more than 25,000 masks, said John Abraham “Abe” Powell, the brigade’s executive director and one of its co-founders.
The brigade was founded in response to the Jan. 9, 2018, Montecito mudslides that caused 23 deaths and more than 150 injuries. The nonprofit’s mission is to prepare for natural disasters and crises through volunteer training, coordination and deployment.
“The whole way our system works is to connect people who want to help in a crisis with a way to help that is beneficial,” Mr. Powell told the News-Press.
Within just a few weeks of starting the masks challenge, the brigade created a community supply chain of more than 400 volunteers, he said.
The project has included fabric-cutting by Success Stories inmates at the Santa Barbara County Jail and laundering service at Mission Linen. The program also has featured volunteer drivers dropping off free fabric and elastic to mask makers and picking up the completed masks.
“These finished masks are then laundered by Ablitt’s Fine Cleaners (in Santa Barbara), inspected and sorted, packaged and delivered to nurses, farmworkers, grocery clerks, elder and childcare facilities, and other community members working in the midst of this pandemic,” according to a news release.
Mr. Powell said the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade is raising all of the money for the mask materials, so participants in the mask challenge can take part for free by visiting https://bit.ly/3cvgQQU and applying.
On top of making cloth masks, the Bucket Brigade also has a team of approximately 40 volunteers who are using their own 3D printers at home to create face shields for first responders.
In addition to saving lives, the Most Mask Makers Challenge is also a good opportunity for community members to stay connected and remain positive throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Powell said.
He noted the brigade is also helping that connection by assisting nonprofits such as the Friendship Center with food deliveries.
He said that because COVID-19, many of the seniors at the Friendship Center may have felt forgotten due to being isolated because they are at high risk.
“They’ve been kind of disengaged by the pandemic, and they are kind of isolated and that’s not healthy for people,” Mr. Powell said.
Mr. Powell said the donated food is also helping solve the problem of one in four people facing food insecurity in Santa Barbara County. That is why in addition to assisting with food deliveries, the brigade will launch the Victory Garden Campaign in September.
It’s modeled after the Victory Garden campaigns of World War I and World War II.
Mr. Powell explained that the brigade’s Victory Garden Campaign will use recycled wood to make garden beds for community-cultivated organic produce.
The campaign will focus on teaching people organic farming techniques to improve food resilience and security in the county.
Mr. Powell said more details about the upcoming campaign will be released soon.