Cindy Rosen of Robbinsville cofounded the Mercer Mask Project on Facebook as a grassroots social media campaign enlisting volunteers to sew together breathing masks for first-responders and medical professionals fighting COVID-19. Rosen is seen here on her front stoop with some of the fabric, which was left over from her previous work on Project Linus, which produces blankets for children. Photo by Kapu Patel.
Cindy Rosen, a Mercer County real estate broker who’s not making sales these days, had been consuming the non-stop news about the new coronavirus, when she finally resolved to do something about it, in part not to feel like such a helpless bystander, and also just to get her eyes off her TV and computer screens.
“Actually, the first week we were home, I would just watch the news constantly,” said Rosen, a mother of two grown daughters who lives with her husband in Robbinsville. “And this gives me something else to do and concentrate on.”
The “this” is the Mercer Project, a grassroots social media campaign to make breathing masks for first-responders and medical professionals who may be having trouble getting the simple but potentially life-saving respiratory guards, which have been in short supply.
As of Friday, Rosen said she, her four Mercer Mask Project co-founders, and about three dozen volunteers who later joined in the effort, had produced 400 fabric breathing masks. She said about 240 masks would be shipped from her home on Friday to recipients including the Plainsboro Rescue Squad and the Greenhill Pharmacy in Robbinsville. Plus, Rosen added, “a couple of local nurses and doctors have requested them.”
Rosen planted the first seeds of the project on Friday, March 20, with a post on her personal Facebook page in response to a news story about an Indiana woman who had been making masks. Rosen, who had surplus fabric from her previous work with the Project Linus blanket-making campaign, posted that said she had plenty of fabric and anyone wanting some to make masks should message her.
“Fabric will be left outside for social distancing compliance,” she posted.
“That was Friday. And by Saturday morning, Johan had called and said, ‘Why don’t we set up a Facebook page and get this thing moving?’” said Rosen, referring to cofounder Johan Glozman of Princeton Junction. “And it totally snowballed from there.”
“Snowballed” would accurately describe the progression of the coronavirus crisis in New Jersey, which as of Friday has a statewide caseload of 8,825, with a death toll totaling 108. Both figures are up substantially from the day before, with 1,982 new cases and 27 additional deaths.
Chief Ankit Parikh of the Plainsboro Rescue Squad said members were grateful for the 50 masks they received.
And while Parikh noted that the masks were not up to N95 standards — meaning they did not block out 95% of of particulate matter and pathogens — he said they would “go a long way in helping us protect ourselves and our loved ones at home as well.”
“What these guys are doing is really commendable and we are grateful for having residents like them in our community that take care of us in our time of need,” Parikh said in an email.
Before the Mercer Mask Project, Rosen said she had never met Glozman or his wife, LeeAnn. But by Saturday afternoon, they and another Princeton Junction couple, Brian and Brittany Cole, had launched the Project Mercer Mask Facebook page and remote production of the masks began based on designs they had posted.
“A week ago I did not know them,” Rosen said.
She said the group had researched appropriate designs and the types of materials needed to create medically effective masks, and that LeeAnn Glozman is a nurse practitioner who inspects the finished masks to determine the use they’re best suited for. In addition to sewing the masks, volunteers also act as runners to transport raw materials and the finished products.
To get involved, Rosen said people can message her on the Facebook page, or send an email to email@example.com.
“We’re trying to do our part,” she said.