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Lincoln Square, North Center, Irving Park

40th Ward Sewing Guard Already Gave 134 Masks To Retail Employees. Here’s How You Can Help Them Make More

Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) is working on legislation that would require masks be provided for essential employees.

Some of the masks the 40th Ward's sewing guard have made for essential workers.
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LINCOLN SQAURE — The 40th Ward’s sewing guard is donating 134 masks to local retail employees. 

Ald. Andre Vasquez (40th) announced April 4 his office was organizing a sewing guard to make face masks for front line workers in retail and other essential positions.

“We have about 198 volunteers right now and we’re getting to the point where we’ll need more volunteers to help coordinate the volume of people wanting to help make and deliver these masks,” Vasquez said. 

Anyone who wants to get involved in assembling masks or helping deliver them to essential workers should fill out this Google form

“People who want to volunteer can donate materials, sew and also deliver the masks,” said Hannah Geil-Neufeld, a member of the sewing guard. 

When the pandemic first started making headlines, she started looking at ways she could help.

“I went to my ward’s website saw Andre had put up a COVID-19 repose page for volunteers,” she said. “A lot of us are sitting at home wishing we could do something. We realized some of us had sewing machines and fabric and could make masks.”

Anyone with wishing to donate fabric to the sewing guard should make sure its of a tightly-woven cotton, often known as “quilting cotton,” Geil-Neufeld said.

“It’s the most basic fabric you would buy at a fabric store. It’s not stretchy and it doesn’t matter if it has a pattern,” she said. ” We’re also collecting tee shirts with little to no print on them. We’re using those to make face ties for the masks.”

Other materials the sewing guard can use are sewing thread and paper sandwich bags.

“We’re using those bags to store and deliver the masks. If someone has a bunch of those laying around we could use them,” she said. 

Ideally, fabric donations should be pre-washed and tumble dried to pre-shrink the material.

“It’s really cool to be in a position I can provide a platform for neighbors who want to help each other out,” Vasquez said. “And from the response my office has gotten neighbors really want to help out in any way they can.”

The masks are going to employees at local businesses like Q & H Grocery at 2408 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Piatto Pronto at 5624 N. Clark St., Dollar Tree at 5347 N. Lincoln Ave., the 7-Eleven at 5206 N. Western Ave. and more.

“When we got the list of the businesses getting our masks I saw one of them was Middle East Bakery & Grocery on Foster and Clark,” Geil-Neufeld said. “Before all this I used to go there all the time, so it’s nice to put a face on the essential workers we’re helping. There are larger organizations making masks for healthcare workers and that work is needed. But we didn’t want retail and grocery store workers to be left behind, either.”

The best way for essential workers to ask for masks from the sewing guard right now is to email with the subject “Sewing Guard Request,” Vasquez said.

“I’m also working on city legislation that would require masks are provided for essential employees. Not necessarily N95 masks, but some form of protection for workers who are having to interact with people every day,” Vasquez said. 

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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