This Group Sews Masks For Healthcare Workers By The Thousands

Health care workers from Wellstar Cobb Hospital wear face masks stitched by Sewing Masks for Area Hospitals (SMAH) in April.

Courtesy of Sewing Masks for Area Hospitals

Kirsten Hawkins is one Atlanta co-founder of a new group called Sewing Masks for Area Hospitals, which is in the process of getting more than 10,000 masks to hospitals overwhelmed by coronavirus patients.

Many of these healthcare facilities are in metro Atlanta. But Hawkins said the group has expanded to a national scope since its inception in early March when a few strangers–with skills ranging from costume design to IT management–met on the Internet.

Hawkins said the team is also made up of more professional sewers from the American Sewing Guild’s Atlanta chapter, and other community stitch groups like Atlanta Sewing Style and Topstitch Stich Studio in Ponce City Market.

Healthcare workers wear masks made by the group co-founded by Kirsten Hawkins. (Courtesy of Sewing Masks for Area Hospitals)

“This is giving people an opportunity to really help from home and maintain social distancing,” Hawkins said.

People around Atlanta started to find the SMAH group on Facebook. It took two weeks for a small circle of sewing friends to grow to a membership of six thousand.

“We have over 70 different facilities in the Atlanta metro area we’re working with, to get them the supplies that they need,” Hawkins said.

She added that healthcare workers from those hospitals and facilities have been reaching out to SMAH out of desperation.

Hawkins said that includes leaders from Piedmont Healthcare, Grady Health System and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

“This all started because a doctor got in touch with us, and said, ‘Hey, we need masks for my department,’” Hawkins said.

“Some of them have infectious control departments that are reaching out. Other smaller facilities in the Atlanta area, their nurses and doctors are reaching out because there’s no centralized message on how to get masks to cover this shortage.”

“Morning Edition” host Lisa Rayam spoke with Hawkins about what it’s like organizing a group that could potentially save someone’s life fighting the pandemic on the front lines.