Around the end of March, Michelle Oliveira spotted a question in an online chat and went looking for an answer.
Was anyone in the community mass-producing hand-made masks for front-line workers? When she discovered that nobody was, the Willowdale marketing strategist and mother of two was on it. As with other Oliveira tasks, the whole family was quickly engaged.
With help from nine other motivated women — and one man — Oliveira launched Sew for TO city-wide, turning it into a 180-person network. Almost overnight, they set about making and donating more than 10,000 masks.
Now there are sewers by the dozens, including 34 from Willowdale alone. But there is also a full administration team: one in charge of sourcing fabric, another taking orders, others in charge of things like organizing drivers and arranging donations, mostly of fabric.
“It’s such a well-oiled machine,” she told me. “Like a mid-sized company that we have built in a month.” A start-up which gives away all its product and pays none of its workers.
The masks and some protective caps have been donated in large numbers to workers in local long-term care homes, hospitals and shelters. The workers can them wear on the job but also on transit and at home to reduce exposure for others.
Groups in need of free masks, as well as those who want to help produce the masks or make donations, can reach out to sewforto.ca.