When Natalie Haynes emailed Cherry Berry Quilts in Calimesa about two weeks ago, she had no idea how much her life would change because of it.
Haynes was looking for fabric and some people who could sew. What she ended up with was an army of volunteers, thousands of face masks, a partnership with Randy and January Shaffer – owners of Cherry Berry Quilts – and a full-time commitment with Masks for the Frontline.
“I feel like God has just brought us together to make this happen,” Haynes said.
Haynes read on Facebook that some of her nursing friends were looking for face masks, which have been in short supply because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With her Heart and Soul Salon in Yucaipa shut down because of the state-wide shelter in place, she volunteered to cut fabric for homemade face masks. However, she did not know how to sew and decided to reach out to Cherry Berry Quilts and see if the shop owners knew of anyone interested in making face masks.
“I don’t know what it was,” Haynes said when asked why she chose Cherry Berry Quilts from the other quilt shops in the area.
Within an hour, January Shaffer had answered her back.
“She reached out to us, saying, ‘We need masks and here are the masks we need. Can you guys help us, none of us sew?’” Randy Shaffer said about how the partnership was formed. “We got involved and decided we were going to start donating fabric, elastic and wire to the cause.”
“The outpouring of affection has just been overwhelming,” Randy said about the response. “It has gotten much larger than my wife and I and Natalie had ever dreamed it would get.”
As of late Friday, April 3, Masks for the Frontline had made and delivered about 3,000 face masks to local organizations, from hospitals to clinics to the Yucaipa Police Department, and had another 2,000 “in production.”
“It is crazy how big it grew from something so little, from us wanting to help our friends and family,” Haynes said.
The Shaffers too are amazed by what has happened since they sent out an email blast to their customers.
“The army of our customers has truly been overwhelming,” said Randy. “We had no idea we would have so many people volunteer.”
More than 100 Cherry Berry Quilts customers are picking up packets of supplies outside the store on Calimesa Boulevard, sewing face masks and dropping them off as fast as they can. The masks are made with high thread count 100% cotton, thin elastic and wire to keep them in place. The inside is flannel for more comfort and there is a slot for a filter. One customer, Randy said, has sewn more than 150 face masks herself.
Still, however, that has not been enough.
“I have to say this whole thing has kind of taken a mental toil because seeing the need as great as it is and having to tell people, ‘Listen, I know you need 1,000 masks but we can give you 150 today,’ is a difficult thing … We just feel terrible,” Randy said.
Haynes, who is no longer cutting fabric but organizing orders and facilitating deliveries, agrees it has become a demanding commitment. Yet, they are all determined to do what they can while they can.
“It is a catch-22,” Haynes said. “I hate that we are having to do this, but I am glad we are able to.”
“We are doing a little bit at a time and they are very appreciative,” Randy said about the frontline organizations who have received face masks. “We are just trying to do this to help the community. We are doing our best to get them what they need.”
Right now, Masks for the Frontline is only available to essential organizations. The face masks are not for sale to individual customers.
Haynes is looking into possibly setting up Masks for the Frontline to receive monetary donations, but at this time, only supplies are being accepted. In particular, 1/8 inch to ¼ inch braided elastic is needed, Randy said.
Just the other day, Brydensot Metal Products in San Bernardino donated metal specifically cut for nose strips to keep the masks in place.
With the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) now recommending face masks when out in public because of COVID-19, the demand is higher than ever.
“As long as we have the resources to do it and we have the volunteers, then we can continue,” Haynes said.
The Shaffers say they too will continue for as long as they can. Their shop is also closed because of the pandemic. However, they want to do what they can for their community.
“It is just an unbelievable community effort,” Randy said. “The right person contacted us and we had the right contacts. That is really what it boiled down to.”
For more information on Masks for the Frontline, to donate or volunteer, go to its Facebook page or contact Cherry Berry Quilts via email at email@example.com.