Masks On, Hats Off: Nyack Honors Volunteer Mask Makers

 

What better way to welcome the vernal equinox than to honor the woman who started a chain reaction of mask making with a single Facebook post that became a call to action attracting more than 400 volunteers? A celebration of community spirit took place on a sunny March 20 in the Village of Nyack to honor Nyack’s Masked Warriors.

Donna Timm saw her Facebook page get flooded with responses when she asked if anyone wanted to help make masks when the coronavirus pandemic officially hit our shores last year. Hospitals were short-handed when capacity started overflowing while supplies of PPE (personal protection equipment) were drying up. Timm, a textile artist, had no idea her post would garner such attention. “A year ago, I would not have believed anyone if they told me we’d be standing here,” she told dozens of fellow residents gathered Saturday morning at Veterans Memorial Park (a/k/a Hezekiah Easter Memorial Park) to recognize her effort to help hospitals and neighbors in need when COVID-19 became a part of daily conversation.

Timm quickly contacted a fellow member of the Nyack Art Collective, Bill Batson, who joined her in what became known as Nyack Mask Makers. Hundreds of residents—from teens to seniors-answered the call to help protect hospital workers and first responders, sewing more than 16,000 masks for local heroes. In record time. Realizing quickly, it was going to have to be an organized effort, Timm’s husband created a website with registration information. “The wheels were in motion,” said the soft-spoken woman, “and we moved forward with an army of dedicated makers and generous donors ready to help in any way possible.”

“What surprised Donna and I was the speed of the response,” said Baton.” Montefiore Nyack’s CEO, Dr. Dan Geller, came right to the phone. How quickly his staff reviewed and approved our prototype! How rapidly over 400 neighbors with their sewing machines stepped forward to serve and 200 more to donate money for materials…in eight weeks we distributed over 15,000 masks.”

Timm described the first few months as “quite a ride,” but said the system of picking up materials to the dropping off and distribution of masks became part of their daily life. “Hundreds of masks in sets of 10 and 20 would pass through my door, often with heartfelt messages to Bill and myself or to the people receiving the masks.”

Those who registered to make the three-layer masks were given photos that showed the step-by-step process to create a safe face covering. Everyone who registered picked up their fabric at The Quilt Tree in downtown Nyack. “The owner, Lisa Jenner, was terrific,” said Timm. “She got a special permit to keep her store open for participants so they could purchase the fabric they needed and also to pick up the elastic for them, which I obtained separately for Lisa… it may sound unbelievable to some, but elastic was a precious commodity.” Timm said those who wanted to help but did not know how to sew were taught so they could take part in the effort. “It was amazing, and I’m still a bit in awe in how it all came about.”

On hand to fete Timm and Batson was Senator Elijah Reichlin-Melnick (D-38thDst), a Village of Nyack trustee who defeated Bill Weber in the 2020 elections. He arranged for the ceremony honoring Timm and Batson for their humanitarian effort during the 2020 Pandemic. One Mask Maker, Alicen Noseli, who made over 1,000 masks by herself, received a special Certificate of Commendation, as did all who participated in the Nyack Mask Maker project. “It’s inspiring to see a community come together for a good cause and do it so quickly,” Melnick said of Nyack Masked Warriors’ efforts to protect frontline workers during the health crisis.