SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- It may seem as though masks are no longer in short supply. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Quietly, behind the scenes, the San Diego Face Mask Sewing Group is making a huge difference.
Founder Michelle Harvey is modest about what her passion and compassion have accomplished.
She says, "By myself, I'm not very powerful as far as making many masks."
So she reached out to her community on Nextdoor.com. From there, she started a Facebook group and she says, "It just grew and grew and grew."
It started when Michelle's friend, an ICU nurse, posted about the need for masks back in March 2020. Michelle answered the call and managed to make three masks even though she says she wasn't a wiz at sewing and had no pattern. Once she got the word out, the group then had to overcome other challenges.
She says, "There were fabric shortages, there were elastic shortages, we created a network of trading to give to each other."
Now, they're like a well-oiled machine. Michelle estimates they've provided about 70,000 masks to recipients ranging from health care workers and first responders to service members.
She says, "It's very emotional. I will receive texts with pictures. They're all wearing masks, but you can see the smiles, you know, you can see the smiles."
The San Diego Face Mask Sewing Group now has more than 1,800 members who sew, drive or supply fabric. In the last year, Michelle's idea has spread around the world. She says she couldn't have imagined it would grow this big.
"I had no idea what this would turn into and the friendships we'd make along the way and be able to help support each other as we go through different things throughout these different phases," Michelle says.
The group itself has entered a new phase prompted by a troubling message Michelle received about some health care workers. She says she found out, "Nurses are not getting breaks, they're not able to sit down and eat a full lunch."
So Michelle put out another call, this time for things to put in goody bags. The gratitude was immediate.
"I will get messages saying, 'Thank you, that was the only thing I had to eat my entire shift,'" says Michelle.
The bags are filled with everything from fruit to lotion and lip balm. Each bag comes with a handwritten note.
Michelle says, "I felt like I could give them some joy, something in their day to make them feel like out here, we see them, we support them and we care."
As if that weren't enough, the expression "the apple doesn't fall far from the tree" applies perfectly to Michelle and her son, Mason, who was featured on ABC 10News a few years ago. She says, "He's been raising funds since he was 7 years old and doing drives for the Ronald McDonald House."
After Mason was diagnosed with Crohn's disease, he and his mom also started making candles. Part of the proceeds go to the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. That's on top of the masks and goody bags.
Michelle says her hope going forward is to have empowered people. She says, "We have made a difference and that this will inspire others to continue to carry this on in many other ways."
While she looks forward to the day masks will no longer be necessary, she says the group will be here as long as they're needed. If you'd like to volunteer or ask for help, just go to the San Diego Face Mask Sewing Group on Facebook.