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Three Generations Make Face Masks to Protect Community & Healthcare Workers From Coronavirus

Three generations of a metropolitan Atlanta family are pulling resources together to make homemade facemasks for frontline workers and anyone in need of a mask.

Grandmother Brenda Miles, 69, daughter Karren Manuel, 42, and granddaughter Kaitlyn, 24, are all working flat out to make protective masks to help limit the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Miles, a retired seamstress, does most of the sewing. Manuel handles business operations and her daughter, a recent college grad, helps with the finishing touches and social media posts.

So far the multigenerational family has made hundreds of masks to “cover the community,” says Manuel. They are donated to healthcare workers or can be purchased by non-essential workers.

Manuel, a well-respected community player in metro Atlanta’s Decatur, came up with the idea. She reached out to her mom who was all in. Her husband David Manuel helped donate materials for the initial supplies through his non-profit, I Am A Father.

“My sister Sheena, is a nurse practitioner, floating between Grady and Emory Hospitals and has had a bad case of pneumonia. So, this is very personal to me and my family. We don’t plan to lose anyone and must do our best to follow the rules and even more to protect our health.”

To kick-off, Manuel posted photos and a video clip of her and her mom making the masks on social media. To their surprise, they received an overwhelming response.

So far masks have been delivered as far afield as NYC, Miami, Louisiana, and San Francisco, among other places. In and around Atlanta they have donated to doctors, frontline personnel, and healthcare workers at Emory and Piedmont Hospitals.

In fact, demand has spiked since the CDC recommendation that everyone should wear cloth or fabric face coverings in public settings. There is currently a shortage of surgical masks or N-95 respirators for healthcare workers.

Earlier this week UrbanGeekz caught up with Karren Manuel to find out how things are coming along and her long-term vision for this brand new venture.

What inspired you to launch this service?

In the middle of March, my husband David and I were discussing what and if there was anything we could do to help out in the community as we watched the news of families and businesses distressed and being impacted severely with the COVID-19 pandemic. Little did we know my Mom, Brenda Miles, was thinking the same thing while sitting on her patio sewing station scrolling through headlines. The following Sunday, March 22, there was an article in the AJC on the Million Mask Challenge with a pattern and video of how to make the masks because there was a shortage. I sent it to mom, asking but knowing she would be interested if this is something we can do. She agreed without hesitation.

 

Are the masks for the general public or frontline healthcare professionals?

Both! David insisted this was something I Am a Father 5K Initiative could support financially for our front line healthcare professionals and covered the costs for initial materials. We also receive a donation of quality fabric which allowed us to make a couple hundred more. We made social media posts announcing to the public. To our surprise, we received interests and support from many. And, many were still working that were non-healthcare and needed coverage. We didn’t want to leave anyone uncovered; so we started selling them!  Which in turn, with the proceeds we were able to ship all around the nation to include San Francisco, Oakland, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Washington D.C., and even Pennsylvania.

 

What are the logistics behind this operation?

My mom does most of the sewing; with my daughter Kaitlyn assisting with quality control final touches, supply errands, and assisting with social media marketing. They already had a company creating various items, Cosmic Creations ATL.

I manage most of the business functions including payments, branding, marketing, packaging, local deliveries, and shipments.

 

Is sewing a passion?

Enterprise and community building are my passions.  While I can sew and learned in my youth, I barely pick up a needle. My Mom is the creative and always has been. She taught her four girls and grandkids how to sew, cook, and make a great home.

 

It appears to be a family affair, do you anticipate needing more people if there’s increased demand?

It’s been a steady and productive four weeks. We have it under control and when we get large orders, like between 30-75 masks, my sister, daughter, and even my stepfather jump in to get them created and out the door within 2-3 days. Even my stepson Branden has jumped in to help us get the masks on our website. Hey, I have a large family, three brothers, and three sisters, and a host of nieces and nephews.

 

What’s your overall goal and mission of this initiative?

We’ve made around 400 masks and now are doing caps to match.  We have samples in a store in Louisiana for Breast Cancer patients and survivors.  All of this by request as the need and demand increase. We are scaling to suit the needs of the community.

 

It seems as if the guidelines are constantly changing but the CDC now says clothing masks can help slow down the spread of COVID-19… what are your thoughts?

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  At least that’s what I heard a great deal of my life. I believe it is and has always been about taking preventative measures in health and wellness.  Minority communities are usually hit the hardest in any time of crisis. Better health, mentally and physically, will help us at this time and in the future. We have to do a better job taking measures to fortify our bodies, homes, and communities against all threats to our humanity.

 

Do you know anyone that’s contracted COVID-19 or been severely impacted by the pandemic?

Every day I log on to social media, I see a friend or loved one that passed or has someone sick and struggling with COVID-19 or complications with this pandemic. I, personally, lost a beloved teammate last week.  It’s heartbreaking and traumatic to wake up each day to loss.  Some days I don’t even log on.

My sister Sheena, is a nurse practitioner, floating between Grady and Emory Hospitals and has had a bad case of pneumonia. So, this is very personal to me and my family. We don’t plan to lose anyone and must do our best to follow the rules and even more to protect our health.

Our masks are two-sided, full coverage, 100% cotton, and 100 % close-knit cotton duck cloth, and each has a pouch where you can add the N95 masks to preserve and prolong use or add a filter for an extra layer of protection!

We can all help to keep our community covered and lifted up one way or another. We must all rise to the challenge in this critical time

Interested in getting a mask? If you are a local healthcare professional of any kind currently working, you can receive a mask for free! Go to IAmaFather5k.org and send us a message, with your address and facility of employment. We will respond with details.

If you are a non-essential worker, masks can be purchased for $18 on the IAmaFather5K website here. Masks are produced by Cosmic Creations ATL.

Main Image: Karren Manuel, Kaitlyn, and Brenda Miles (l-r)

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Kunbi Tinuoye
Kunbi Tinuoye
Kunbi Tinuoye is the founder and CEO of UrbanGeekz. Previously, she worked as a News Correspondent for NBC’s theGrio. Prior, she was a senior broadcast journalist for the BBC in London. Tinuoye currently sits on the SXSW Pitch Advisory Board and CES Conference Advisory Board. She is a key player in the Atlanta tech startup ecosystem and serves as a mentor for Comcast NBCUniversal’s The Farm Accelerator. Tinuoye has received several awards and accolades, including being honored with a Resolution from the Georgia Legislative.
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