FIT Alumni and SUNY Rising to the Call

In this moment, there is a critical need for personal protective equipment, or PPE, and FIT alumni are leading a nationwide volunteer project to produce and deliver hospital-grade masks for frontline workers in the COVID-19 battle. To date, more than 6,500 masks have been made by FIT alumni, students and friends. The project, called Sew4Lives, was founded by FIT alumni in New York State and now operates as a network out of more than 20 states.

FIT alumni have launched Sew4Lives, a national network of volunteers organized to sew hospital-grade masks, initially for St. Joseph’s Health in Syracuse, St. Peter’s Hospital in Albany, Glen Cove Hospital and St. Francis Hospital in Long Island, Staten Island University Hospital, and Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan. Sew4Lives was organized by FIT alumni Caroline Berti and Karen Sabag, both Fashion Design ’07. Alumni, students, and friends of FIT and SUNY have already joined the program under the direction of the two graduates and have established teams in multiple regions across New York, in addition to supporting national groups in more than 20 states.

Berti and Sabag met at FIT in a costume design class. Now Berti runs her own fashion and costume design business and Sabag her own bridal design company. But then the COVID-19 crisis occurred, appointments got canceled, and they started looking for ways to help. Their “a-ha” moment was realizing that hospital-grade masks could be made from polypropylene, which was readily accessible, easy to clean, and impermeable to the virus.

The first week, with a handful of people sewing, the team made about 1,500 masks. Now, there are close to 100 people on board from coast to coast. To date, over 6,500 masks have been produced and delivered, all while observing social distancing guidelines, which led to an enlightening moment for Berti.

“We’re all in quarantine and having no physical contact, and yet in many ways this is the most contact we’ve had with anyone,” she says. “We’re all now connected to this mission, while before we were working on our own brands or companies, so this whole thing has brought us together. This has given us a sense of purpose that some of us have never had before. It’s very overwhelming.”

Volunteer or Donate
To volunteer to sew or donate fabric, contact [email protected]. Follow @sew4lives and help spread the word.

Mask Instructions

How You Can Help
Anyone with a sewing machine and cotton material can create this mask and help at the local level. These masks can be used by workers staffing grocery stores and other essential businesses that remain open during this period. Easy-to-follow instructions, created by Joan Endres, FIT adjunct instructor, Fashion Design, are here.

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