3 ways Birmingham is providing facemasks to healthcare workers—how you can too

A BIG thank you to healthcare workers and other essential workers keeping Birmingham safe and strong. Photo via Bham Face Masks.

We can’t thank our healthcare workers enough for putting themselves on the frontlines to fight COVID-19. But, we can show appreciation by donating facemasks and our time through Birmingham organizations.

Whether it’s sewing a mask, creating one through a 3D printer or simply being a runner for supplies—these local businesses and residents are stepping up to help. Here’s how you can get in on the action. 

1. They’re making the masks themselves

homemade face masks
Content producer Pat Byington and his wife Kathleen Rose-Byington. Photo courtesy of Pat Byington for Bham Now.

While homemade masks aren’t considered PPE (personal protective equipment) they’re still important, because the masks are used to save N95 and other high-level PPE for use with COVID-19. You can read the current CDC guidelines here.

Bham Face Masks

You probably heard of the incredible Facebook group organizing Birmingham residents to sew and donate their own facemasks. As of March 30, Bham Face Masks distributed over 5,000 to local health care workers.

 With growing numbers, the team created a one-stop website, Bham Face Masks, that’s allowed volunteers to sign up, obtain fabric, create and deliver personal protective equipment (PPE) face masks for healthcare-related uses.

“So many people have come together to offer their services—JOANN Fabric is donating fabric, volunteers across this area who can’t sew have volunteered to cut, for example. 

Hospital and nephrology center representatives are telling us how much they appreciate our efforts, and we are honored to be of assistance during this time of uncertainty.”

Christine McLean, owner of The Red Pincushion

Heidi Elnora

When Tim Gunn said “Designers, make it work” Heidi Elnora took that advice and ran with it. The Birmingham-based wedding designer teamed up with Red Land Cotton, an Alabama company, to help bring more masks to those in need in our community and beyond.

“It’s crazy to think that just last Sunday, I reached out to my community to ask for help in order to create face-mask.

Boy, did they answer the call. With over 90 volunteers and 60 seamstresses working together as a community of one, our sole focus is on getting as many masks into as many hands as possible.”

Heidi Elnora via a Facebook video

Not only is Heidi Elnora donating 100% of her masks and paying for her seamstress’ time to help in this movement, but she’s also offering compensation to those volunteer seamstresses who are in need of financial help due to job loss.

2. Local businesses are using innovative technology

An example of a face shield—read more about them. Photo via Red Mountain Makers.

You’d be surprised what you can accomplish with a 3D-printer. In fact, it may even save a life. Whether you’re tech-savvy or don’t know how to open a tab on your computer, there are plenty of ways to contribute to the cause.

Bham Support

Bham Support is calling all makers and organizations to help in the effort to help supply emergency equipment to Birmingham. The organization works with a number of supporters such as Red Mountain Makers, Stream Innovations, Fledging and more to make PPE, like face shields.

For more information or questions email bhamcovid3dprint@gmail.com.

Red Mountain Makers + Satterfield Technologies

Part of an ad-hoc of Bham Support, Red Mountian Makers is a nonprofit offering six dedicated spaces to STEM research. Their current project is organizing makers across Birmingham to create face shields and N95 face masks.

According to Shirley Hicks, one of the founders of Red Mountain Makers, via Facebook, the nonprofit is working in coordination with Satterfield Technologies. The local tech company is using its 3D printing skills to create masks with an N95 filter inserted into it.  

John Olsen, UAB medical student

According to his gofundme page, John Olsen is also working on prototypes for hospital equipment such as ventilators and valves. Photo via gofundme.com.

Another maker is John Olsen, a current student at Alabama College of Osteopathic Medicine and full-time father. According to John, several hospitals have zero face shields right now and he’s stepping in to make more. In order to continue, he’s set up a gofundme.

“I have basically converted our attic into a mini factory for producing these items. Unfortunately, scaling up beyond low numbers of prototypes is expensive!

I am hoping my friends and family will help me raise additional funds to purchase said materials to begin distributing them ASAP.” 

John Olsen via gofundme page

CerFlux

3D face mask
3D mask. Photo via Karmin I. Budhwani on Twitter.

Birmingham-based biotech company CerFlux is utilizing its manufacturing, fabrication and prototyping capacities to create PPE as well.

“Our primary focus is on producing personal protective equipment (PPE), which includes face shields and respirators/masks. We are also preparing to assist in other areas such as ventilator adaptors.”

Dr. Karim I. Budhwani, CEO of CerFlux

3. Groups are hosting drives

face masks drive
Volunteers at the Physicians Mom group mask and PPE Drive at the Homewood Library, on March 21, 2020. Photo courtesy of Kellie Tapley

In addition to the groups mentioned above, drives are also being held around the city. Every drive takes extreme precaution when handling donated items.

Physician Moms

For the past two weekends, a grassroots group of Birmingham physician moms have held a drive collecting PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) at Homewood Public Library. The group is organized by Homewood resident Dr.Ellen Eaton and also includes also includes attorneys, small business owners, and marketing moms.

Keep an eye out for additional drives by following Dr.Ellen Eaton on Facebook. These are some items you can donate:

  • Surgical masks and N95 masks
  • Gowns
  • Shoe covers
  • Face shields
  • Bouffant caps/head covers
  • Reusable googles

Christian Service Mission

A permanent drop-off site is established at Christian Service Mission. They are collecting unopened PPE through a no-contact system.. To donate, drive up to the dock to place equipment in a labeled collection box on the dock lift. You can also find information for donation receipts placed in the box.

  • Where: 3600 3rd Avenue S – Birmingham, AL 35222
  • When: Mon.—Thurs. 9 AM to 3 PM, Fri. 9 AM to 12 PM

What are some other ways Birmingham businesses and residents are providing masks? Let us know on social @bhamnow!