One Dollar For Life Nonprofit Sews Thousands Of Face Masks

Healthcare workers around the Bay Area and the entire country have warned that they are running low on supplies of personal protective equipment such as gowns, gloves and face masks.

Now the Livermore-based nonprofit One Dollar For Life is hoping to meet at least one of those needs. The international service project was recently employing low-income women in Kenya and Nepal to sew cotton sanitary pads, which were then donated to teenage girls to help them stay in school. That means that when the coronavirus pandemic hit, the group already had a manufacturing process in place.

“We converted temporarily the sewing centers to manufacturing — instead of cotton sanitary pads, cotton masks,” said the group’s Executive Director Robert Freeman. “It’s exactly the same material, and the seamstresses just shift patternn. Now, instead of manufacturing pads they’re manufacturing masks.”

Health experts are mixed on whether cotton face masks are effective in preventing the spread of the virus and the CDC is not recommending masks for most healthy individuals.

But the group says it is ramping up its efforts to contribute in whatever way it can.

“They’re making as many as they count,” says Freeman. “We’ve manufactured 9,000 already in Kenya, 3,000 in Nepal and they’re going all out.”

The masks are washable and reusable. The group plans to distribute them to U.S. hospitals and other healthcare providers who can make them available to low-income people who are in need.