It’s natural to want to lend a hand to a community in trouble. When Linen Heroes April Streetman and Christina Cain heard about the ongoing mask shortage putting Detroit’s hospital staff and essential workers at risk, they knew they had to help.
“It was devastating to sit at home not being able to help those who were giving so much so that I could stay safe,” says April, our Head Seamstress. “I felt like I needed to help. I was really happy that I had this skill that I could put to good use.”
That skill, of course, was sewing.
“We were talking about how amazing it would be if we could go into work and use the industrial sewing machines there to make masks,” says Christina, our operations manager. “They’re so much faster than the ones we have at home.”
Not only that, but the tightly woven fabrics used in many of our linens were perfect for the job. They couldn’t offer medical-grade protection, but they could help reduce the risk of viral spread. Worn over the top of N95 masks, they could also extend the life of these vital PPE supplies.
“I felt like I needed to help. I was really happy that I had this skill that I could put to good use.”
Christina pitched the idea to our President, Rachel Torok, who gave her enthusiastic support – including the go-ahead to upcycle our salvage linens into masks.
“We’re lucky enough to work for a great company and an amazing boss who jumped at the opportunity to help the community,” says Christina. “She allowed us to donate our time, and gave us the supplies to make it happen.”
Christina and April scoured the internet for a mask template, and spent the weekend training up a team of volunteers – fellow Linen Heroes Lydia Rojas, Priscillia Garza, and Patti El-Yafouri, along with Patti’s daughter Natalie and April’s daughter Kyra. They were up and running the following Monday.
“None of them had used industrial machines before this, but April got them up to speed in just a couple of days,” says Christina.
Within two weeks the team had created 1,000 masks ready for donation, which they dropped off at the McLaren Macomb and Ascension St John’s hospitals, the Madison Heights fire and police departments, and local essential services providers.
But they didn’t stop there. The wider community also needed masks – especially as they began to return to work. So April, Christina and the team began producing masks for clients, customers, and friends and family of Chair Covers and Linens.
As of the beginning of May, they’d donated more than 2,500 masks, all in our distinctive fabrics, with more to come.
“We’re so grateful to be able to make a difference,” says Christina, who says that there’s been an outpouring of support online. “We really appreciate Rachel and the company for giving us what we needed to make it happen.”