When the COVID-19 pandemic triggered the need for masks throughout Kaua‘i and the rest of the state, Kaua‘i residents Kris Hunt and Morgan Lopez joined forces, creating the organization Massive Masks for Kaua‘i (MM4K).
The duo coordinated online. They recruited volunteers, found a pattern from a Facebook group in Philadelphia, and started making masks. Together the group has — to date — distributed more than 5,000 face masks on Kaua‘i.
Because of what the volunteer group has done, they were nominated as The Garden Island’s Hometown Heroes by Jan Pascua of Kaua‘i Care Services.
“They have over 148 volunteers and have made over 700 deliveries, which includes pickup and dropoff of supplies and masks,” said Pascua. “Kris and Morgan have been tirelessly working on this project. This has helped to bring our community together, provide volunteer opportunities to those unemployed, and give hope to our residents.”
Pascua volunteers with MM4K, cutting masks and making ties, and got reacquainted with Hunt after seeing one of the MM4K masks posted on social media. The two were neighbors in Kalaheo in the past, but Pascua lost contact when Hunt moved to a different part of the island. Pascua reached out to MM4K to volunteer after seeing the masks online, and then realized Hunt was co-spearheading the project.
“Since then, I’ve been involved as a volunteer,” Pascua said.
Lopez is the executive director of the Kaua‘i Chapter of the Hawaii Lodging &Tourism Association. Hunt is a physical therapist, and the one who took the first steps in establishing MM4K. She started sewing masks for local hospitals when the pandemic hit, and then got a call from her sister-in-law in Boston. That’s where she got the idea to organize volunteers and streamline the mask-making process.
“(I) decided to just make a group,” Hunt said. “I started Massive Masks for Kaua‘i and people jumped on board. Morgan is mostly my manager to keep track on orders (and) volunteers, and just was a big help, so I could sew.”
Lopez had already been working to get face masks to hospitals through HLTA. The organization was taking donations from businesses — like hotels and resorts — that had personal protective equipment they weren’t using. She had the idea to help with sewing masks when she saw some handmade masks during a delivery.
A social-media search for Kaua‘i mask-makers linked Lopez with Hunt. They only met face to face for the first time last week.
Now, MM4K has donated to organizations like Bayada Home Health Care, Wilcox Medical Center, Kaua‘i Veterans Memorial Hospital, Garden Isle Healthcare &Rehabilitation, Samuel Mahelona Memorial Hospital, Gather Federal Credit Union, Kaua‘i Emergency Management Agency and others.
“At one point there was limited supply of fabrics, elastics ran out, so the idea of T-shirt ties came to us. Cutting the bottom of T-shirts helped. Charity Walk Kaua‘i donated all of their T-shirts from last year. Island Image donated some T-shirts and Hawai‘i Food Bank donated as well, so we could use them for the ties,” Lopez said.
Hunt added: “Other people are also making and donating for different organizations. One lady was like, ‘I’m going to make for the Kalaheo fire department guys.’ Some have even donated to the houseless communities at Lydgate and Salt Pond.”
On average, volunteers at MM4K can make one mask each in about 20 minutes, but Hunt said in the beginning it took some time to get the pattern right. The group finally settled on a tie-style pattern.
“In the beginning I was sewing 10 hours a day, 10 masks a day,” Hunt said. “I like the fitted mask, the cup shape with the nose wire versus the pleated style that sometimes doesn’t fit your face or covers your whole face. It doesn’t need to cover your whole face, it just has to cover your nose and mouth. People have different shapes of faces, and ears are not always in place, so the tie style is really better to give to the general public.”
Most volunteers are sewing in their own homes. Lopez and Hunt both said they’ve got lists of people they need to thank, and are amazed by the dedication of their volunteers.
“There was one volunteer that said, ‘Hey, I’m heading to Waimea, do you have anything for me to take out there?’” said Hunt. “I want to thank everyone who invested his or her time, labor and efforts.”
“So many volunteers said ‘Thank you for giving me something to focus on.’” Hunt said. “We were all worried how this was going to affect us, and so many people were glad they had a project.”
Going forward, Lopez and Hunt said MM4K is still making masks for the community, especially since stores still require masks for entry.
Also on the agenda for the future is a face-to-face meeting with many of their volunteers.
“We feel that way about so many people we met. One day we will get everyone together so we can meet. Everybody put everyone first before himself or herself,” Lopez said.
Stephanie Shinno, features and community reporter, can be reached at 245-0424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.