In times like these, the best thing Canadians can do is band together and help support each other. Our Charitable Choices feature this week depicts a woman doing just that. Canadian bridal & fashion designer Rita Vinieris would typically be making final touches to her new collection for Bridal Fashion Week, but instead has made it her team’s mission to help frontline workers feel safe and protected by sewing and donating masks to save lives and combat COVID-19.
The Rita Vinieris team has sewn and donated over 1000 masks for with 10,000 expected in the next couple weeks. Rita herself made mask kits to send to team members to sew at home, making this a passion project for the entire brand. Rita Vinieris is also accepting in-kind donations of fabric and elastic to help produce more masks We spoke to Rita, herself, to learn more about how she’s making a difference and we can help!
What charitable work are you doing?
Due to the shortage of PPE for Frontline staff during this pandemic, we have set ourselves a goal to DONATE 17,000 PPE surgical MEDICAL MASKS & make over 10,000 fabric masks to be donated to our hospitals and home healthcare frontline workers. As well, through our resources we are able to attain PPE surgical masks that we can purchase and distribute to our hospital across Ontario and the United Stated.
What problem does it aim to solve?
We aim to Help our Frontline staff with Fabric masks that are non-surgical in order for surgical masks to be only allocated to frontline staff. All approved visitors who enter hospitals and all discharged patients as they reintegrate not the community can wear the Fabric masks allowing the Doctors and Nurses and other Medical staff to use PPE masks.
When did you start/join it?
We started exploring how we can help the day the lockdown started in Toronto, March 25th. My team and I reached out to all our supplies to try to purchase both fabric and elastic as I had a team of seamstress at home willing to sew masks. I also explored any contact we had to get our hands on PPE masks. The actual cutting and sewing of masks did not happen until April 1st as it took us time to acquire both fabric and elastic. Thankfully some wonderful friends in Toronto materials for the masks. I also had a dear friend in Vermont send me some pre-cut masks, fabric and elastic.
What made you want to get involved?
After reading that fabric masks were being asked for by hospitals I had to help. It’s in my nature to want to problem solve and find solutions. This was a big issue on hand that needed a solutions. I even went as far as to looking not obtaining PPE mask making machinery. Machinery sourcing was taking too late and there are technicalities and licensing that I was not familiar with so I used my resources to help with what I could. Mask making was the obvious way to go.
What was the situation like when you started?
It was a slow and frustrating start. As Toronto was on lockdown, and so was NYC and Italy, I had a very difficult time attaining fabric and elastic. I contacted everyone that I new asking if they had material for donation or purchase. The most frustrating thing was that I had hundreds of yards of fabric under my cutting tables but not cottons or polyester as asked by the hospitals.
Since we went on lockdown I also had to do all the cutting of materials and elastic with my husband. It had been over a decade that I had spread fabric and used a cutting machine. But once I started, it was like getting back on a bike. The cutting of elastic is the one thing that can be time consuming. I’ve cut 4000 masks to date, that required 8000 pieces of fabric and 8000 pieces of elastic. Bundles of all components need to be made for each seamstress. This takes a while as you need to count out the elastic and twist ties that are inserted on the top edge of the mask so that it can be formed over the bridge of the nose.
How has it changed since?
Over time I have developed systems to cut down time in counting which was such relief. We also set up a GoFundMe to help pay for materials and PPE masks that we are purchasing, and have received wonderful support.
What more needs to be done?
I’d like to source some move volunteers to sew so that we can keep on making masks for the hospital and other healthcare facilities. We have had healthcare facilities reaching out to us for masks. I’d like to be able to donate masks to any facility that needs them in order to keep people safe.
How can our readers help?
If they can help by donating anything to our GoFundMe! Every little bit helps. $1 or $5 it all adds up and Together we can all help make a difference and help our Frontline Workers stay safe so they can continue to save lives.
Do you have any events coming up?
Our events consist of daily drop off to the hospitals and healthcare facilities.
Where can we follow you?
You can follow me on FB Rita Vinieris and Instagram @ritavinieris
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?
Its hard for me to pick one charity that I love as I feel all charities are so important and are working so hard to help people with different needs. Here are few charities that are important to me, Houselink, Project Semicolon, CAMH, Soup Sisters, Habitat for Humanity, FoodShare