Faced with a profound shortage of masks for its staff during the early weeks of the coronavirus pandemic, Rochester’s Catholic Family Center put out a community request for 400 masks to be sewn and donated.
Yet it soon became apparent that not just workers at the Catholic Charities agency were in need of those important items — so were the folks they served.
“It would make all the difference for our staff, clients, and community as a whole,” stated a CFC-issued plea for masks that ran in several local parish bulletins.
Marcus Ebenhoe, who serves as CFC’s director of advocacy and parish social ministry, noted that the requested number of masks ballooned from 400 to 800 in just a week’s time. However, thanks to a strong effort by groups and individuals from all over Monroe County, that goal not only has been met has been exceeded. Ebenhoe said April 23 that “well over 1,000” cloth masks had been donated.
“We’ve received a huge response; it’s been amazing. I was blown away,” he remarked. “All in all, I have personally emailed with over 60 individuals, and many of them are a point person from a larger group.”
Ebenhoe said masks are being collected at seven drop-off sites in the Rochester area, and that he’s also driven to several Catholic churches that conducted mask-making efforts. For instance, he noted that he had just been to Mendon’s St. Catherine of Siena Church on the morning of April 23 to pick up a large bin full of masks. Many businesses, as well as local groups — “organizations I didn’t even know about” — have gotten on board as well, Ebenhoe said.
While grateful that the original hoped-for amount of masks has materialized, Ebenhoe emphasized that the collection is “going to go on indefinitely, as long as there’s still a need,” saying that any number of masks will be welcomed and put to good use in helping stem the threat of the coronavirus. For instance, he said it would be ideal for CFC employees to have two masks each, so that on any given day one could be worn while the other is being washed. In addition, he said, “We keep getting more clients and need to keep interacting with them. We want to make sure we’re being safe and they’re being safe.”
Ebenhoe pointed out that CFC continues to operate during the pandemic, saying, “People still need the services. We’re still getting up every day, trying to serve our community as best as we can.” According to a statement on the organization’s website from Marlene Bessette, president and CEO, “Our emergency and shelter services, addiction treatment programs, mental health clinic, and services to the elderly, families and refugees provide services that are clearly aligned with the definition of essential services. We will continue to carry out our mission.”
Meanwhile, Ebenhoe expressed confidence that the public will continue its mission of mask donations, based on the response thus far.
“In a time like this, when it would be easy to sit in our little bubbles only caring about ourselves, these people are finding ways to help others and build our community up,” he said. “I’m absolutely overwhelmed by the dedication of our community to support one another. It has been heartwarming, and it just gives me hope that we’ll all get through this (pandemic) together.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Catholic Family Center continues to welcome the donation of cloth masks from community members and groups. Those interested in donating are asked to contact Marcus Ebenhoe (firstname.lastname@example.org) to organize pick-up or delivery of masks. For instructions on how to create masks, visit www.ecommunity.com/giveppe/homemade-mask-instructions.