Special to the Gazette
On Lamartine Street in Jamaica Plain, Kathleen Gaskin works into the night in her home-based upholstery shop, Decorator’s Workroom. While the popular shop across from the Stony Brook Orange Line stop is closed because of the COVID-19 business shut-down, she is making masks for the Boston Area Mask Initiative.
Gaskin was furloughed in April from her position teaching upholstery at the Eliot School of Fine & Applied Arts in JP when the school had to close because of COVID-19.
“When I heard from the school about this mask initiative, I knew right away I wanted to help,” she said. “It’s a great project! It’s keeping me going – I can work in my shop and play my music and know that my efforts are helping others.”
Gaskin came to the United States from Trinidad in 1969 at age 24 and is a longtime U.S. citizen who always gives back to her community. She serves on the board of JP-based “Families Creating Together” and has received awards for community service from Action for Boston Community Development, Vinfen, where her autistic son receives care, Spontaneous Celebrations and other community organizations.
Starting the Boston Area Mask Initiative
In mid-March, Stephanie Cave saw on the news that face masks were desperately needed by those working in hospitals, nursing homes, homeless shelters, food pantries and other sites that needed to keep workers and those receiving services safe.
Cave’s ties to JP go back a few years to when she sold quilts and home décor from the Green Street storefront, now occupied by Papercuts bookstore. She also taught sewing classes in collaboration with the Eliot School of Fine & Applied Arts.
Cave immediately started to mobilize her sewing networks to meet the need for masks. She is now running the Boston Area Mask Initiative, a clearinghouse for requests and drop-offs, out of her Dorchester home. Her expanding network of about 250 sewers is producing more than 3,000 masks a week and has filled requests for approximately 17,000 masks in the Boston area. The requests are currently hitting a total of 45,000.
Her designs can provide for filter-ready masks which allow filters to be inserted or they can be used over the N95s needed in emergency rooms and ICUs for greater security.
Eliot School playing a role
Eliot School Executive Director Abigail Norman praises Cave’s inspiring initiative. “With our country unable to provide enough proper protective gear to people, the Boston Area Mask Initiative is making a huge difference to public health. Stephanie has pulled together an amazing volunteer network based on shared skills and resources and shared urgency.”
While on furlough, other Eliot School sewing teachers, including Carol Price, Deborah West and Mihoko Wakabayashi, along with numerous sewing and upholstery students, are producing masks to distribute through the Mask Initiative, Worcester Mutual Aid, and directly in neighborhoods where the coronavirus is causing disproportionate harm.
The Boston Area Mask Initiative welcomes volunteer sewers, fabric and elastic donations, and volunteers to pick up and deliver materials and masks. They also welcome mask requests. Forms for both are available on their website http://www.bostonareamaskinitiative.com/ and their Facebook group page. https://www.facebook.com/groups/bostonareamaskinitiative/