by Kirsten Hawkins, SMAH National Director

If someone told me that 2020 would be the year a group of strangers would have the potential to help thousands of healthcare workers with only their sewing machines, I would have laughed in disbelief. The sewing community – seamstresses, tailors, quilters, hobbyists, costume designers, fashion designers – is so varied, one probably wouldn’t think a group with such a wide range of interests and abilities could come together in uncertain times.

Yet somehow, that is just what we managed to do.

Sewing Masks for Area Hospitals (SMAH) started as a small desire to help. Three women who have never met in person created groups on Facebook, hoping to make masks for friends working in healthcare facilities in Atlanta. When friends – doctors and nurses who were running out of the N95 masks they desperately needed during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic – reached out, Kayla Hittig, Gina Livingston and I took a chance and joined forces.

Practically overnight, our little group grew to almost 9,000 volunteers providing home-sewn masks to over 100 facilities in the Atlanta area. SMAH now has chapters in multiple Georgia counties and several Southeastern states. 

In less than two months, Atlantans came together and answered the call for help from our healthcare workers. Individuals and national organizations have joined forces with SMAH, creating a zero-contact supply and distribution chain run entirely by volunteers and relying exclusively on donations to get masks to our healthcare workers. 

 The entire experience has been nothing short of magic. 

Sewing Masks for Area Hospitals should not exist. A group of volunteers who otherwise would be strangers in real life should not have been able to organize so quickly to address the nationwide PPE shortage in hospitals. But here we are. 

And we will keep fighting, keep making masks until all of Atlanta’s healthcare professionals and essential workers have the equipment they need to protect not only themselves but our entire Atlanta community. 

If you would like to create your own version of SMAH, please reach out. We have a team of volunteers who are ready to get your community, your healthcare workers, the home-sewn masks they need in this time of crisis. 

We are here for you. We are here for Atlanta. We are here for our country. 

Until this pandemic is over, we will continue to sew masks with heart.