Ever since the Corona Stompers and associated volunteers began to collect donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) and monetary donations to buy equipment for frontline workers, they have filled an important role in the Vineyard community.
Initially, the protective equipment donation program was created to supply frontline and essential workers with masks, safety glasses, face shields, hospital caps, and gloves, and although that goal still lies at the center of the initiative, the group of makers and donors want to provide for the Island as a whole.
Amy Upton, lead organizer for the Corona Stompers, said the group has provided around 1,000 cloth masks to grocery store workers, bus drivers, restaurant employees, and hundreds of ordinary community members.
They have also provided around 250 N95 masks to frontline workers who do not have easy access to them.
Their work is becoming even more important now that Gov. Charlie Baker is requiring Massachusetts residents to wear masks as of Wednesday, May 6.
Currently, the Corona Stompers are collecting monetary donations through their GoFundMe so they can continue to sew, collect, and distribute valuable protection to Vineyarders.
Upton said that although they are extremely grateful for the benevolence of folks on-Island who donated their time and money, their production costs are significantly higher than their current donations.
The group is exploring different avenues for grant funding, but in the meantime will rely on private donations to keep the initiative going.
With the conclusion of phase one, which involved providing emergency relief to essential workers in the way of PPE, Upton said they are now shifting to phase two.
In phase two, the Corona Stompers will look to outfit regular citizens with the protective equipment they need to ensure the safety of the entire community.
“Our new goal is to be all-inclusive. Corona Stompers’ next phase of community protection is to make masks and necessary gear available to every Vineyard resident in need,” Upton wrote in a letter thanking the community and asking for their continued support.
The Corona Stompers issued a complete list of Island organizations and individuals they have helped, and who have helped them.
Meanwhile, the 3D printer guild is continuing to churn out face shields for frontline workers, and according to Chuck Noonan, who acts as a lead organizer for the group, they will have provided more than 1,000 face shields by the end of next week.
“Things are going well, we passed 700 shields this last collection and have outfitted the police departments, EMT’s, hospice, the VNA, all the grocery stores and post offices, the VTA, and are opening up to other Island organizations that request shields,” Noonan wrote in a text message to The Times.
The group has been partnered with the Corona Stompers to create the most efficient and effective network of makers and distributors.
Recently, the 3D printer guild has been making mask extenders to tie mask elastics behind your head, instead of having them go around your ears. This makes masks more comfortable and allows them to be worn for longer periods of time.
“We’ve got a number of those out to different groups as well,” Noonan wrote.
Chris Connors has been helping the 3D printer guild make face shields at home using his laser cutter. Connors said he can make masks by purchasing plexiglass from Shirley’s Hardware and cutting four face shields at a time from each sheet.
“It’s kind of expensive, but it’s a very streamlined process so I can make shields pretty quickly,” Connors said.
For each set of face shields, there is a piece of scrap plexiglass that can be used to make mask extenders.
“I am making a bunch of the mask clips and face shields. If there is a need for something else, I can work on coming up with a new design,” Connors said.
The Corona Stompers also have a number of volunteer seamstresses who cut out cloth masks and sew them together to hand out and sell at a reasonable price.
Chrysal Parrot is one of those seamstresses who is churning out hundreds of masks each week. She said she anticipates a surge in requests as a result of Baker’s executive order.
“We are still going strong,” said Parrot, who was reached while working at her sewing machine. “With the order coming from the Governor for everyone in Massachusetts to wear masks or face coverings starting on Wednesday, I am expecting a huge rise in need.”
As of now, Parrot said she alone has made around 430 cloth masks, which she is selling for $10 each to cover the cost of materials. “The masks I am making are cloth masks that have three folds in them and a pocket for a filter,” Parrot said. “If you are an asymptomatic person, this protects other people. It also saves N95 masks for the people that really need them, like healthcare workers.”
Steve Bernier, owner of Cronig’s Market, said he is thankful to the Corona Stompers for keeping his employees safe and allowing them to keep shoppers safe at the same time.
“If it weren’t for Amy and the gang, we would be all out of masks. But they have been doing a great job and we are thankful for the support. We are really doing what it takes here, and I think the whole Island community is also,” Bernier said.