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During the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown, a group of volunteers has played its part in keeping essential workers safe.

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The Masks for Tauranga initiative, in which 30 volunteers sewed and distributed face masks free of charge, has given more than 1600 essential workers their own face mask.

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The project was started by Follow the White Rabbit owner Vicky Lang who said she was eager to do something for those who had to work during lockdown.

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"When we looked like we were on the same trajectory as Italy and we went into lockdown, I thought people were going to need masks and I wanted to do what I could to help combat Covid-19. I wanted to do something to protect our community and my immediate thought was all those essential workers going to work."

She set about organising supplies and a team of volunteers to sew cotton masks, which have "good quality" filters, supplied by face mask manufacturing company Lanaco, inserted.

"I put out a call for volunteers and a friend made a website. We had to get clearance to get fabrics, get that to volunteers, so I needed to get clearance as an essential worker. We established a supply relationship with Tauranga Bernina Sewing Centre and they supplied all the materials at quite a good discount.

"I was delighted how many people wanted to help, particularly the professional seamstresses, they were effective at churning out hundreds of masks."

Follow the White Rabbit owner Vicky Lang (left), dress maker Porcha Pearce and sewing team volunteer. Elizabeth Venimore have been making face masks for essential workers. Photo / George Novak
Follow the White Rabbit owner Vicky Lang (left), dress maker Porcha Pearce and sewing team volunteer. Elizabeth Venimore have been making face masks for essential workers. Photo / George Novak

Once all the plans and methods were in place, the team got to work and has supplied face masks to many areas of the community, including charities such as Women's Refuge, Awhina House, Tauranga Moana Night Shelter, Salvation Army, Tauranga Food bank, Curate Church Meals, Pacific Community Health, KidsCan NZ, Under the Stars, Huria Marae He Rourou Aroha and Tauranga Living without Violence.

"We first focused on supermarkets because we saw that as a place bubbles could be burst. We had uptake from health care professionals and caregivers as well. Some were given at cost, we asked medical centres if they could contribute to the cost, but the majority were given away for free.

"The charities is where it really got busy, that's where the biggest number of masks went."

Since the beginning of the lockdown Vicky from Follow The White Rabbit Store and 30 other local volunteers have been...

Posted by Masks For Tauranga on Sunday, 17 May 2020

She said the way communities had banded together to fight Covid-19 was one of the positives to come out of dealing with the pandemic.

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"It was just admirable the way people wanted to kick into action and start doing something to make a difference."

Salvation Army Tauranga manager community ministries Davina Plummer said the face masks the charity received were hugely beneficial.

"We were given 40 and they've come in handy. It's incredibly kind of them and very much appreciated. It was a little bit hard to get hold of supplies during lockdown so we were very grateful for them.

Today's COVID-19 thanks goes to the lovely people at Masks For Tauranga for supplying fabric masks for our workers and...

Posted by Tauranga Salvation Army on Sunday, 17 May 2020

"The masks were great breathable ones, they are very practical. During level 4 we wore them to do our contactless food deliveries and now in level 2 we've made them available to our volunteers doing some more of our normal services."

Making the masks comes at a cost and they are still in hot demand so now the team is running a "buy one, donate one free" system where for every mask bought they donate one to someone in need. For more information go to: www.masksfortauranga.nz