10,300 & Counting -- N.J. Members Carry Out Massive Mask-Making Mission
Maj. Greg Hoffeditz
Public Affairs Officer
New Jersey Wing
A small but tireless group of New Jersey Wing members are producing personal protective equipment to stem the COVID-19 spread, going about their work with keen eyes, deft fingers and blazing machines.
Under the coordination of Maj. Lorraine Denby and 1st. Lt. Carol Faaland-Kronmaier of the Raritan Valley Composite Squadron and Senior Member Catherine Lackey of the Jack Schweiker Composite Squadron, the New Jersey Wing literally spun into action when the request came in.
In all, 127 volunteers have produced more than 10,300 masks. They’re continuing the effort as long as it’s needed.
“While the need at the hospitals and health care workers has diminished,” Faaland-Kronmaier said, “there are still nonprofit places in short supply and are desperate for help.”
Sewing machines were brought out of mothballs to tackle the task. Second Lt. David Muniz of the Ocean Composite Squadron geared up for the mission with a hand-cranked 1918 New National model sewing machine manufactured in Missouri during World War I.Second Lt. John Cann of the Lone Eagle Composite Squadron began producing masks on a child’s sewing machine. He quickly gave up on that idea and bought a real one. Though he had never sewn anything in his life, after a little coaching Cann has produced 135 masks so far.
First Lt. Peter Hinge of the Lone Eagle squadron and his wife, Sylvia, turned their dining room “into a ‘mask factory,’” he said.
Also wanting to be part of the mission, but without a machine or anyone in the family who could sew, Cadet Senior Master Sgt. Arjun Suresh of the Hillsborough Composite Squadron purchased a pair of sewing scissors and became a master fabric cutter.
The top stitchers have been Lt. Col. Marianne Ferland, a wing staff member who has made over 1,260 masks, and Cadet 2nd. Lt. Alondra Rosas of the Jersey City Composite Squadron, who has sewn more than 757 masks.
“By sewing masks for those who need them, I feel like I am helping more people than just myself,” Rosas said. “The mission is a way for me to give back to the people who need help, because I know they would do the same if the occasion ever came up.”
“Even though I did not know how to use a sewing machine, being part of this mission, to me, is
Not only do the wing volunteers produce the masks, they also deliver them to hospitals, nursing homes, police, rescue squads, immunocompromised patients, shelters, food banks, group homes and child advocacy organizations that provide services to children and teens, including at-risk preschoolers.
Drivers have made 114 trips to 75 locations to deliver the raw materials to the coordinators and then the finished products to those requesting them. The round trips average three hours, with some lasting more than eight hours.
For Cadet 1st. Lt. Varija Mehta of the Capt. Bud Jackson Composite Squadron, "COVID-19, despite being a global pandemic, has really brought this community together. I am so fortunate to have this opportunity to do something to help others, and for that I will be forever grateful.”
Cadet Staff Sgt. Rubith Balasubramani of the Jersey City Composite Squadron called the mission “a great opportunity for my family and I to make a difference during this tough time. It is great that we can help in any way possible, using the skills we already have. “We are grateful to be a force helping to stop the spread of this battle that we are facing,” Balasubramani said.
Seventy-seven of the 127 volunteer mask makers have been cadets. The rest are senior members, family members, friends and neighbors spread throughout New Jersey. Additional volunteers also joined the team effort from other Civil Air Patrol wings, such as Pennsylvania, New York and North Carolina.