Brannan said she got the idea from an Atlanta-based group. She knew Arizona could benefit from such a group, so she went on the Facebook Marketplace and started searching for groups in Chandler. Then, she started what is now Mask Making for Arizona Healthcare Workers.
In just the last week, the group of now 500-plus has created 2,200 readymade masks to put in the hands of Arizona health care workers.
"We had over 200 members in less than 24 hours. I thought we might have 50 women interested," Brannan said. "Now, we have hundreds of people all across Arizona involved in the group."
Brannan said the masks the group is making are being accepted by the Dignity Health Foundation. In addition to the masks for Dignity, Brannan created a sort of "angel tree" method through which seamstresses in the group can band together and adopt a health care facility that has put in a request to the group for mask donations.
Brannan said April 2 that in the previous nine days, the group received more than 4500 requests for masks.
"My whole thing is whether you are adopting someone from our facility or sewing masks to donate to health care workers you know, every mask counts," Brannan said.
There are national concerns about a shortage in personal protective equipment, including masks, for health care workers as COVID-19 spreads across the country. People have been sewing masks across the country in an attempt to step in and make sure health care professionals and first responders have some sort of protection.
Brannan said the masks the groups is making are not medical masks but are readymade masks that doctors and nurses can put over their N95 masks to "try and prolong the life of the mask."
"A lot of health care facilities don't have N95 masks right now because they donated what they have to hospitals," Brannan said. "I have a doctor who is on the front lines; he’s an infectious disease specialist and requested 50 masks. It's frustrating to see that our health care workers who are on the front line are having to work in the conditions they are working in." Brannan said the group is using three patterns right now: a 100% cotton PPE mask; a PPE mask with a filter pocket; and a PPE mask with filter and wire.
"This is serious. This isn't just us playing house," she said. "These need to be able to protect these health care workers."
Brannan said the group also has a partnership with Monterey Cleaners in Chandler: The people in the group can leave the masks at the cleaners, the dry cleaning business cleans them, and then, the masks are made available for pickup by the health care worker who requested them.
Monterey Cleaners is doing it all at no cost, Brannan said.
"I can't take credit for all of it," Brannan said. "I tell my kids all the time that teamwork makes the dream work. It's cool that they are able to see that on a larger scale with this."
Brannan said the group is still in need of more seamstresses to make masks as requests from health care workers continue to pour in daily.
"It takes a village," Brannan said, "and I feel like something is better than nothing because nothing could absolutely be deadly."