A contact-free drop off and pick up zone to share masks.
Lynn Klammer does not know how to sew.
But that didn’t stop her from joining forces with two other volunteers to form 4M: Mid-Michigan Mask Makers. Together, with many others, they provide face masks to health care workers and organizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Sew? I don’t sew. That’s not going to happen,” Klammer said when her friend Tami Davis suggested in late March that they start making masks. But Klammer does have experience in managing projects and fundraising, so, along with Davis and a third volunteer, Heather Boyd of Saginaw, she launched a Facebook page about the need for masks.
“It just took off. It became a full-time job,” Klammer said.
Within three days, they had 200 volunteers, including 150 active seamstresses who turned out 3,500 cloth face masks in the first three weeks. By June 1, they had distributed more than 13,000 masks.
“We knew we wanted to set it up like a business,” Klammer said. “We wanted it to run efficiently.”
They set up a quality control process. All the masks went to Davis first, who checked them for workmanship. They also set up a distribution process — under social distancing guidelines — so that only a few people were involved in picking up and delivering material or masks, with limited personal contact.
Klammer started reaching out to businesses for donations, and the group also set up a GoFundMe site to accept gifts. Being featured in local media helped immensely, Klammer said.
“It gave us credibility,” she explained. Most businesses prefer to make donations to groups that have a 501(c)(3) designation from the federal government, which means that the group is recognized as a charitable organization and that gifts to it are
But with so many government offices closed, getting 501(c)(3) approval quickly was impossible, Klammer said. She then sought out an existing charitable organization to “sponsor” 4M in the interim; as of this writing, she is still looking.
Another important decision that 4M leaders made early on was to shift their focus away from hospitals to smaller operations, such nursing homes, and people who provide home health care. She said she was surprised by the number of workers who were not provided with masks.
“There were a lot of people who didn’t get the same attention as large hospitals,” Klammer said.
By June 1, 4M had provided masks to more than 200 organizations, mostly in Saginaw, Bay and Midland counties. Although other groups approached them about merging into a single, larger operation, 4M chose to remain independent and avoid “all that bureaucracy,” Klammer said.
Klammer is a fan of small-group efforts in general.
“I’ve always thought small groups could do so much more than big government,” she said.
It isn’t just the health care workers who benefit from 4M, Klammer said. It’s also the participants.
Not only do the group members feel they are helping fill a need during the COVID-19 crisis, they also have become a community among themselves. Long into the night, Klammer said, her computer “pings” when the group members send messages back and forth.
“It’s really been eye-opening to me,” she said. “It’s been amazing.”