St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care-Bucyrus Campus, 2450 W. North Ave., doubled as a mini mask-making factory on May 13th. Staff members joined forces to make 700 masks, addressing the urgent need to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Staffers volunteered as part of the MaskUpMKE challenge to create 3.5 million homemade non-surgical masks for healthcare providers and other essential service providers in Southeastern Wisconsin.
Teachers, nursing assistants and administrators spread out in two large adult day care rooms. “We see this as an important way St. Ann Center can give back to our community and the entire Greater Milwaukee community,” said Diane Beckley, Chief Operating Officer. The Bucyrus Campus’ north side neighborhood was particularly hard hit by the virus.
St. Ann Center partnered in this effort with United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County and other nonprofits, businesses and foundations. Others include the Milwaukee Bucks, Medical College of Wisconsin, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Zilber Family Foundation, Ignite Change, FiservForum, Habitat For Humanity and Saukville manufacturer Rebel Converting.
After learning of the shortage of masks nationwide and how it was affecting Milwaukee, Thaddeus Kryshak, a recent graduate in engineering and physics, spoke to his father Mike Kryshak, owner of Rebel Converting about how they might be able to produce face masks using the materials they were already using to produce hospital-grade disinfectant wipes. Thaddeus developed a successful method, and MaskUpMKE was born.
Initially, the mask kits were designed to be taken home and assembled by individual families. “I convinced United Way that St. Ann Center is a family,” Diane said. “We have plenty of space for social distancing—so each of our volunteers had an entire table as a work station.”
After a 72-hour quarantine period, the face coverings will be distributed to the community under the guidance of the Medical College of Milwaukee. “We did so well during our first session, we decided to tackle another box of 700 the next day,” Diane added.
Diane is also a member of Milwaukee’s Stronger Together Collective, a group formed to get information about the pandemic out to the African American community. “The mask-making project dovetails perfectly with this effort,” she said.