Masketeers Fred and Ruth Silverman bought a sewing machine in order to participate in the volunteer project. (Photo by Fred Silverman)

Lee Budish founded the Mill Valley Masketeers in March to provide desperate medical personnel with vital pandemic-protective masks. It was such a success that the volunteer Masketeers have redoubled their efforts to include local homeless, undocumented workers and other individuals who can’t afford masks. 

In Marin County, “we live in a bubble,” Budish said. “But just because many of us can afford a mask, that doesn’t mean everyone can. You can’t buy masks when you can’t afford groceries or medications.”

The Mill Valley group has already made more than 6,500 masks and local requests keep pouring in, including some from beyond the Bay Area. The Masketeers heard these out-of-area requests loud and clear, sending 200 masks to seniors in Arizona’s Navajo Nation, for instance. 

Now, Budish finds herself in need of donations of the quilted fabric used to make the masks as demand grows. Only contributions of supplies, including elastic, are accepted. “We don’t take cash donations,” she explained, “and we don’t sell our masks.” 

At its peak, the Masketeers had three dozen volunteers sewing masks, including local Girl and Boy Scouts troops, but because some helpers have returned to their full-time jobs, only about 15 remain.

Volunteer-made masks ready for delivery. (Photo by Lee Budish)

Two are Fred and Ruth Silverman of Tamalpais Valley, who didn’t have a working sewing machine but bought one for the project.  

“It feels good to be part of a group doing good works,” said Fred Silverman, who taught himself to sew for the volunteer effort. 

What began as a group of strangers connected through online Nextdoor posts, Budish said, morphed into a group with “an unbreakable bond,” working “week in and week out to provide masks to our health-care workers, the vulnerable, the needy.”

In addition to serving local minority communities, the Masketeers have also distributed masks to the Marin Food Bank, Marin County Mental Health Clinic, Marin Community Clinics, staff and residents at The Redwoods retirement community, as well as first responders at UCSF Medical Center and nurses at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.