NEW YORK - Karen Sabag is a small-business owner in Roslyn, Long Island. The bridal designer realized she could turn her wedding gown garment bags into face masks for doctors, nurses and whoever needs them to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
"'Oh my God, I have this in my house and we can use them,' and we started chopping up my garment bags," she said. "Rikers Island—the nurses there have nothing. Not even one. And she was so appreciative we gave her these 200 masks."
Sabag and her friend, Caroline Berti, both FITNYC alumni and designers, launched Sew4Lives USA, a nationwide volunteer group created just three weeks ago to make hospital-grade face masks following CDC guidelines. Their friend Lauren Holovka, who is also a designer and business owner in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, joined them.
"I get text messages—as soon as I brought in the box, everybody grabbed one," Karen said. "It was amazing."
Caroline said the masks can be reused.
"You can wash it," she said. "It's not going to fall apart."
In just 2 short weeks Sew4Lives USA volunteers in New York City, Long Island and Staten Island have made more than 5,000 face masks for workers at Elmhurst Hospital, Long Island Community Hospital, the U.S. Postal Service, Sanitation Department, the MTA, and many more hospitals and agencies.
"People who work at homeless shelters who have no masks whatsoever," Caroline said.
Lauren delivered a mask to a woman who has cancer needed one for her chemotherapy and she just started crying, Karen said.
And their work is strictly volunteer.
"We're still using our own money," Caroline said. "We're still using our own materials."
If you would like to help out, do not send them money. They will not take it. But they will accept cotton and medical-grade fabric.
"Seeing things that I can do to other people to make a smile on their face and showing them that people do care," Karen said.
Sew4Lives is exploring the possibility of becoming a 501(c)3 nonprofit.