Haverhill’s L’Arche Boston North Among Those Receiving UMass Lowell Face Coverings

Volunteers with UMass Lowell’s Face Coverings for the Community Campaign are making masks to slow the spread of COVID-19 and donating them to social service organizations in need throughout the Merrimack Valley. (Courtesy photograph.)

Community organizations throughout the Merrimack Valley are receiving donations of face masks to help slow the spread of COVID-19, thanks to a UMass Lowell volunteer initiative to make and distribute the personal protective equipment.

The Face Coverings for the Community Campaign has enlisted volunteers including UMass Lowell students, staff, alumni and others to produce the items. The effort has already provided close to 4,000 face masks for more than 15 community service organizations throughout the region, including L’Arche Boston North in Haverhill, the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Lowell, Lowell Community Health Center and Lowell Senior Center.

Tom O’Donnell, UMass Lowell’s senior director of innovation initiatives, said, “As the COVID-19 crisis deepened, we quickly rallied our UMass Lowell Innovation Hub and Fashion Makerspace teams to repurpose existing equipment, personnel and financial resources to rapidly design, fabricate and distribute the face coverings to respond to the growing need within the Greater Lowell community. By making these items functional, fashionable, comfortable and re-usable, we know we’re having a positive impact, which makes it all worthwhile.”

The initiative is a collaboration between UMass Lowell’s Community Relations, the university’s Fashion Makerspace, directed by Diana Coluntino, and the UMass Lowell Innovation Hub.

Beyond its work on the face coverings project, the makerspace is helping to pioneer next-generation, smart clothing and textiles as part of UMass Lowell’s Fabric Discovery Center at the Innovation Hub. When the need to wear face coverings to slow the spread of the coronavirus became apparent, the makerspace stepped up.

Each face covering is made with an outer layer of cotton fabric with an internal filter pocket and an athletic-wear liner that wicks away moisture. The fabric is cut in bulk at the makerspace and packaged into kits for volunteers to sew at home. Companies donating textiles and supplies essential to produce the masks include Brine Sports of Concord, Draper Knitting Co., of Canton, Gorgeous Fabrics of Billerica and Brooks Shoes of Seattle, Wash.

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