Dripping Springs residents pool efforts to create masks for the Austin area with Make-a-Mask Austin

A photo of five medical workers wearing hand-sewn masks and holding a sign that reads "Thank you #MakeAMask sewers."
Jennifer Reyes' staff at various Victory Medical locations in the Austin area show their appreciation for Make-a-Mask donations. (Courtesy Jennifer Reyes)

Jennifer Reyes' staff at various Victory Medical locations in the Austin area show their appreciation for Make-a-Mask donations. (Courtesy Jennifer Reyes)

Image description
Jennifer Reyes' staff at various Victory Medical locations in the Austin area show their appreciation for Make-a-Mask donations. (Courtesy Jennifer Reyes)
Image description
Jennifer Reyes' staff at various Victory Medical locations in the Austin area show their appreciation for Make-a-Mask donations. (Courtesy Jennifer Reyes)
Image description
Jennifer Reyes' staff at various Victory Medical locations in the Austin area show their appreciation for Make-a-Mask donations. (Courtesy Jennifer Reyes)
Image description
Carol Acosta, a Dripping Springs seamstress, is among those contributing to Make-a-Mask's stock of hand-sewn masks for medical workers. (Courtesy Jennifer Reyes)
One week ago, Jennifer Reyes, the director of operations for a group of family practice and urgent care centers in the Austin area, had to face a hard truth: There were not enough medical masks for her employees. Victory Medical had fewer than 50 surgical masks and only four N-95 masks to spread between a team of 170 healthcare workers.

Even with this lack of necessary supplies, Reyes knew she would still have to ask her employees to come to work to handle care for patients with COVID-19 symptoms.

“It pulls on your heartstrings, as administrative staff, to do that,” Reyes said.

Reyes turned to social media, putting the call out that she needed donations of hand-sewn masks, which can be used to extend the life of medical-grade masks by covering the medical mask and switching out the fabric mask between each patient. The sewn masks can also be laundered like medical scrubs, meaning each mask has a long-lasting impact.

“This is a call for help,” Reyes wrote. “It’s not just my staff. We’ve got to find a solution for Austin health care workers.”


The post was shared widely and was ultimately seen by over 30,000 people, Reyes said. It resulted in a flurry of efforts to make and donate masks—so much so that she formed an official organization to manage the effort, Make-A-Mask Austin, run entirely by volunteers.

One of the individuals spurred to action by Reyes’ plea was Keele Winter, a fellow Dripping Springs resident.

“Feeling helpless like everyone else, I thought, ‘I know a seamstress,’” Winter said.

Winter reached out to seamstress Carol Acosta, who runs her own business, Carol’s Operations, out of Sophie’s Garden Salon. Ever since COVID-19 began to spread locally, Acosta’s usual business had dried up as clients retreated into their homes. Winter said she saw an opportunity to both support the Austin medical community and a local business, so she organized a community effort to contribute cash to sustain Acosta’s efforts, with a $5 donation paying for one mask.

Acosta, who moved to Dripping Springs last year, said she was delighted with the opportunity to help and to keep her business alive.

“My shop is pretty new, so I was very worried,” she said.

Since Acosta began sewing the masks, donations of elastic, fabric and cash have rolled in from community members, many of whom learned of Acosta’s operation from neighborhood Facebook groups for Dripping Springs and Circle C residents.

At the same time, a number of other communities were spearheading their own donations to Make-A-Mask, both in the Austin area and across the county, Reyes said. As of March 26, Reyes estimated Make-A-Mask had received at least 1,200 donated masks from sewers like Carol. However, with more and more Austin-area health care institutions requesting donations through Make-a-Mask—including major area hospitals, according to Reyes—the need for more donations is still great.

“We honestly can’t even keep up with the number of masks that are being requested,” she said.

Moving forward, Reyes said she has plans to explore new innovations to increase mask inventory, including partnering with veterinary clinics to exchange sewn masks for medical-grade ones while the pandemic persists. Make-A-Mask has already partnered with Dripping Springs Veterinary Clinic to do this, and Reyes plans to reach out to others.

“Our goal is to get a mask in every health care worker’s hands in Austin,” she said.

For more Community Impact stories on mask-making efforts, click here.
By Olivia Aldridge
Olivia is the reporter for Community Impact's Central Austin edition. A graduate of Presbyterian College in upstate South Carolina, Olivia was a reporter and producer at South Carolina Public Radio before joining Community Impact in Austin.


MOST RECENT

Traffic moves along the upper decks of I-35 near downtown Austin on Dec. 1. The Texas Department of Transportation is seeking public feedback on a $4.9 billion project to improve the 8-mile stretch of I-35 through downtown. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
TxDOT is spending billions to fix I-35 through downtown Austin, but some community members say the state is wrong in its approach

A report from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute released Dec. 1 said the 8-mile stretch of I-35 from Hwy. 290 to SH 71 is the most congested roadway in the state.

Pravo Construction opened a new headquarters at Two Barton Skyway, 1601 MoPac, Austin, on Nov. 1. (Courtesy CBRE)
Now open in Austin: New coffee shop, offices and medical clinics arrive south of river

New businesses operating in Austin include MilkRun, which delivers dairy, meat, produce and other products from local farmers to customers at home.

Graphic of a coronavirus unit
COVID-19 rates after Thanksgiving have yet to climb, but experts say spike could still be coming

As Austin awaits a vaccine whose first doses could arrive by the end of 2020, health officials say the impact of Thanksgiving gatherings on the spread of the virus could take time to show up.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board has launched a campaign to address declining college enrollment numbers across the state since the pandemic started. (Courtesy Pexels)
Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board launches campaign to boost college enrollment

The decline in college enrollment across the state of Texas has prompted several agencies to partner up and create online resources for students and counselors.

Photo of a hand dropping a ballot in a box
Candidates for Austin City Council District 10 face off ahead of Dec. 15 runoff

Incumbent Alison Alter and challenger Jennifer Virden are vying for the seat.

Austin City Hall (Christopher Neely/Community Impact Newspaper)
Public safety, homelessness in Austin take center stage in final forum before District 6 runoff vote

Three days ahead of the first day of early voting for the Austin City Council District 6 runoff election, a final public debate was mostly focused on issues of public safety.

This is a view of the new William Cannon Drive bridge from I-35 in South Austin. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
South Austin motorists should brace for lane closures, delays on I-35 this week

Roadwork in the area overall is expected to continue until the middle of 2021.

Campuses in Austin ISD will be closes to in-person learning the week after Thanksgiving break. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
All Austin ISD classes to be held online through Dec. 4

The district will also be providing free COVID-19 tests to staff and families Dec. 2-4.

Bicycles for public use are docked at a MetroBike station on Lake Austin Boulevard. Austin's $460 million Proposition B will include funding for additional bicycle lanes through the city. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
Breaking down Austin's $460 million bond for bike lanes, trails, sidewalks and more

The bond will fun a bridge over Pleasant Valley Road connecting two ends of the Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike trail, among other improvements.

Local health leaders are urging caution ahead of Thanksgiving. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Ahead of Thanksgiving, Travis County health officials urge caution

Austin Public Health leaders say gatherings with people outside one's household held indoors and without masks pose the greatest risk.

Harini Logan, 10, won the 66th annual Express-News Spelling Bee at the University of Texas at San Antonio downtown campus on March 17, 2019. For 2021, the event is slated to be held in March at the Brauntex Performing Arts Theatre in New Braunfels. (Photo by Jerry Lara, courtesy the San Antonio Express News)
New Braunfels to host regional spelling bee and more Central Texas news

Read the latest business and community news from Central Texas.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan for the state Nov. 23 for a vaccine he said could be available as soon as December. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announces COVID-19 vaccine distribution plan

The vaccine could start being distributed "as early as next month," according to a Nov. 23 news release.