Annex Helps Flatten The Curve Handmade Masks
In April 2020, with the onset of the global pandemic, a group of dedicated volunteers launched Flatten The Curve (FTC) Handmade Masks, an initiative to create masks to protect the high-risk population in Vancouver. The social program launched under the leadership of senior health consultant Susan Scott Gabe, and supported by Annex Helps, aimed to deliver 2,000 masks by May 15, 2020.
“When the pandemic hit, it brought many people together. Ms. Gabe started Flatten The Curve and asked us if we were interested in working with her on this,” said Joyce Ozier, co-founder of Creekside Village Connexions, a Vancouver-based non-profit.
As the pandemic surged, it led to a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). The Canadian government asked citizens to wear non-medical masks to protect themselves from virus infection. Ms. Gabe, who is on the board of several healthcare companies, watched the situation closely as it unfolded. She reached out to several experts in Cambridge and Stirling Universities in the U.K. to understand the quality requirements of these masks. She concluded that the non-medical masks should be made of 100% cotton fabric with a minimum thread count of 350 to be effective.
“We were clear about the specific requirement of the fabric based on our research and the right methodology to create it,” Ms. Gabe reported.
Finding Material and Volunteers
The task of creating 2,000 masks, especially during a global pandemic amidst a shutdown, was ambitious with plenty of challenges.
“We realized that we would have to get a team of sewers who would make these masks. That ended up being more difficult than we thought it would be,” commented Ms. Ozier.
This is where Annex Helps came in and assisted with recruiting volunteers. FTC anticipated that these volunteers themselves would have the required material. However, that was not the case, leading them to pivot from their original plan.
“The majority of people do not have material with the required thread count lying around in their inventory,” Ms. Gabe stated.
FTC decided to supply the fabric to people. The logistics of the project turned out to be much more complicated than they had anticipated.
“That’s when we decided to go out and find sponsors. Dania Homes is one big sponsor who not only gave us the fabric but also got masks made by their employees,” Ms. Gabe said.
With the support of Annex Helps and FTC’s efforts, the movement ballooned to more than 100 individuals and organizations volunteering and sponsoring the initiative.
“Our goal was to deliver 2,000 masks by May 15th. By May 10th, we reached that goal. What is remarkable is that we got it done within ten weeks of starting this project. We huddled every day, seven days a week, with a clear agenda, team reports, and key performance indicators,” Ms. Gabe declared.
FTC delivered the masks to high-risk populations in hospices, women’s shelters, community organizations, and the Immigrant Services Society of BC.
“This was a grassroots effort, and the demography of sewers was between 29 and 90 years old,” Ms. Gabe added.
The initiative was completely volunteer-driven, with some volunteers going above and beyond to make substantial contributions. One of them was Helen Summers, the mother of Stacey Cerniuk, CEO of Annex Consulting Group.
“Helen Summers made a lot of masks, and she invited her friends to come and volunteer. She really supported the organization,” Ms. Ozier said.
Doubling up as Communications Lead for the project, Ms. Ozier publishes a weekly newsletter and mentioned that Ms. Summers would be profiled in it soon.
Getting ready for the Next Phase
As of June 10th, with only ten new cases reported as COVID-19 positive, the curve in British Columbia is plateauing. FTC has made more than 2,500 masks and is now working on phase two of its plan.
“We have a robust evaluation plan with metrics and data to assess phase one of the initiative. We are also holding webinars to work with other organizations across BC to understand their plans. We don’t want to duplicate what others are doing. We want to find gaps and niches and work to address them,” Ms. Gabe expressed.
As the Canadian government has started opening the economy, experts are concerned about the second wave of cases. Provincial Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has warned that the pandemic is far from over. If it does resurge, FTC will be ready to respond with its second and third phases.
Annex Consulting Group is an IT recruitment and solutions company that provides IT contractors, employees, and project teams to clients across North America. Established in 1998, Annex has placed thousands of IT and business professionals for hundreds of clients with an industry-leading 97% customer satisfaction rating.
About Annex Helps
Annex Helps is a volunteer program to help front-line essential services organizations, not-for-profits and charities in their fight against COVID-19. If you represent an organization that needs volunteers, or you wish to donate your time and expertise, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. While Annex’s purpose is to make connections that change lives, the purpose of Annex Helps is to make connections that save lives.
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