Barbara Smith wakes up at 5 a.m. and often makes coffee, tea, or something for breakfast. But she always immediately turns to sewing, not hats or scarves, but masks for first responders fighting Covid-19.
“Early in the morning, there’s no telephone, everyone is sleeping,”
said Smith, of Long Beach. “I do my best work in the morning,”
Smith and Facebook Group “Moms Making Masks” have produced more than 4,000 masks for first responders. Smith, a professional seamstress, who once owned her own dry cleaning business in Long Beach, Fashion Cleanry for 15 years, has made more than 1,000 masks alone in five weeks.
“It’s been such a wonderful experience,” Smith said. “It’s like it gave us a new purpose. It’s just a labor of love.”
The Moms Making Mask group was started by East Rockaway Resident and Long Beach native, Jennifer Frank, who began making cotton masks with elastic ear straps out of her home.
After making several masks for first responders, Frank was running out of material and asked on Facebook if anyone could donate elastic.
Lauren Franklin, who did not know Frank at the time, stepped up and helped bring in more people and more material to help the cause.
Smith was a longtime friend of Frank’s mother and saw a Facebook post asking for volunteers and said she jumped on the opportunity.
The group has members in about 20 towns in Nassau and Suffolk County, from Lynbrook to Commack. They have a network of volunteers, who have their own specific jobs. Some wash the donations; others cut, some deliver masks or pickup materials and there are about 50 sewers like Smith and Frank. Overall, Smith said, they have about 150 active workers.
“Many of our donees, have become donors,” Smith said. “They all want to join our group. We have young teenagers to a great-grandma, a 97-year-old, who crochets for us. I have never in my life met more dedicated people.”
Smith has made giving back a family affair by bringing in her daughter, Stacy Smith Weiner, to help sew and deliver masks. Her granddaughters, Shaylee, 14, and Marlee, 12, also help sew buttons.
The group has donated masks to hospitals, fire and police departments, nursing homes, supermarkets and many more places. Political leaders, including State Sen. Todd Kaminsky and Assemblywoman Judy Griffin, have recognized the group.
Mike Smollins contributed to this story