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September 27, 2021
Cambridge Nonprofit Is Making, Giving Masks to Other Nonprofits
Cambridge Volunteer Clearinghouse

June 2, 2020 — Recognizing that vulnerable populations need, but may not be able to afford face masks to maintain their health during the coronavirus pandemic, Cambridge Volunteer Clearinghouse, launched an effort to source, make, and supply masks to nonprofit agencies for distribution to the people they serve.

Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, Cambridge Volunteer Clearinghouse (CVC) focused on matching volunteers with agencies, but, outside of food distribution organizations, the need for volunteers dried up as the crisis grew.

"We knew that the agencies we served needed hand sanitizers and masks, so we started to make and bottle hand sanitizers and helped distribute masks," said Laurie Rothstein, who has served as the part-time executive director of CVC for the last five years. "I called companies that were retooling their operations to make masks for donations. Everybody needed masks, but there weren't enough."

Two Massachusetts companies, John Matouk & Co. in Fall River and Joseph Aboud in New Bedford, responded, donating hundreds of yards of fabric.

The masks are distributed to people who don’t know where to get them or who can't afford longer lasting cloth masks.

To help, volunteers have helped CVC mount a mask manufacturing and distribution operation. Today, about 20 people coordinate agency requests for masks, as well as make and deliver them.

Since CVC launched the effort in April, it has distributed more than 4,000 masks. Helping CVC has been Many Helping Hands 365, another Cambridge nonprofit that fosters volunteerism, which has distributed about 3000 masks.

The two organizations, and others, created a website called Face Masks for Cambridge through which nonprofits that serve Cambridge residents can place requests for masks.

To support the effort, CVC created a fundraising program called buy-one-give-one. Every time someone buys a mask for $10, another mask will be donated to agencies for distribution. To date, CVC has supplied support to 19 agencies.

Rothstein said the program is giving out about 500 masks per week, and expects demand to continue through the end of the year.

"If they're canceling the Boston Marathon, that means we'll be social distancing through the fall. And when you're talking about the fall, the end of the year is not far off," she said. "Also, if for-profit companies are ramping up mask production, they're probably expecting to be in it for the medium to long term."

To prepare to meet continued demand, CVC is holding a weekly Zoom call with 12 other nonprofits to discuss how to procure masks for the long haul, to identify what is needed by whom and for how long.

CVC is also reaching out to Cambridge city officials to coordinate and avoid duplicating efforts.

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