Mom launches 'Masks for Heroes' website that matches requests with donors and volunteers

Becky Vieira says she felt helpless when she found out parents at her son's preschool who are doctors and nurses were in need of personal protective equipment (PPE). Though she helped to spread the word, asking friends and family to donate any masks or other equipment they might have, it didn't feel like enough.

As a mom blogger with a social media following and connections with other bloggers, Vieira says she decided to reach out beyond her local community.



"I turned to Instagram where I could leverage the platform I've built, and also connect with my network of other mom bloggers. I started by asking if we could all source and share PPE requests from family and friends, and the response was so great that I created a separate Instagram account dedicated to the cause. Within a day I had someone offer to build us a website, and by day four we were receiving international requests, had nine engineers working on it, designers, a digital marketing agency and a PR team join the cause. All pro bono. And we're not done yet -- we have an updated website in the works that will launch soon."

The initiative is called Masks for Heroes. Through the website, hospitals, clinics, and other medical facilities can submit requests for PPE with delivery/drop-off instructions. Volunteers and donors can then go to the website to see what's needed and help fill those needs.

"Donors can see exactly who needs PPE and choose where to send it, such as a local hospital in their area," says Vieira. "They know exactly where their donation is going. We help requesters and donors meet and collaborate."

Vieira says every PPE request is verified before it is listed on the website. Currently there are more than 200 requests from medical facilities listed, with 50 more awaiting verification. There's even an interactive map to make it easy to find the needs of facilities in a specific area.

"We do not accept monetary donations and we are not involved in any monetary transactions," Vieira adds, saying that there are scammers out there trying to profit off of the pandemic. This initiative is simply matches up the specific needs of medical professionals with people willing to provide those specific needs.

Since most of us don't have PPE lying around our homes, that often means making and donating homemade masks. Not an ideal solution, but better than nothing in most cases.

Individuals and companies have quickly stepped up to help. Adrienn Braun, a fashion designer and owner of Adrienn Braun Bridal In Hoboken, New Jersey and her team are sewing approximately 100-150 masks a day. They've already shipped out 550 masks and have plans to make 2000 more.

A clothing manufacturer in Virginia, Kurdistan Godani, has sewn 300 masks so far. She's delivered around 100 of those already and plans to make "hundreds more." She says since she can't sell clothes right now, she'll use her fabric to sew masks.

Free People (from Urban Outfitters) is also taking part in the fulfillment, sewing masks for facilities requesting them.

"I am still in shock at how far we've come, and that we're being supported like this," says Vieira. "I'm so proud of the women I know who helped raise the initial awareness that led us to where we are today. Never doubt the power of moms."

Anyone who has a little time to spare can get involved:

"We encourage anyone with N95 masks or other PPE supplies—gowns, surgical masks, face shields, hand sanitizer, etc.—to donate. Check your garage, look in your attic, search your house for any masks you may have forgotten you have. Ask your neighbors, friends and family to do the same. Call local construction companies! Many facilities are accepting hand sewn masks, and we have patterns and tutorials on our website, masksforheroes.com.

If someone doesn't have masks and can't sew (like me!), they can help us raise awareness of this situation. Follow us on social media, share posts, tag their friends. Share local requests to your social media pages and community groups. Anything helps."

Vieira points out that there is some misinformation out there about homemade masks and their effectiveness during this pandemic. "People are saying it's not worth making them as they don't protect against the virus," she says. "But these masks are often used for non-vital patients to free up PPE for others or to cover masks that healthcare workers are having to refuse—because many are being asked to wear single use masks for an entire week. At least they can wash the hand sewn masks between uses."

"And yes, in other cases they actually are being used as the only protection," she adds. "They are a last resort for many health care workers, and people need to realize that's where we are: at the last resort."

Check out the list of PPE needs in your area on the Masks for Heroes website and find out how you can help. Instructions for making masks can also be found on the site.

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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.