Mask Up NM: Volunteers team up to make more than 55,000 masks

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — One year ago April Sanchez started a Facebook group — Mask Up New Mexico.

"Everybody deserves the mask to feel safe," Sanchez said.

Sanchez has asthma and her husband is diabetic. She broke out the sewing machine to start making masks, and soon, with the help of the Facebook group, people were donating supplies and more than 120 seamstresses were volunteering to help.

A year later, the group has made more than 55,000 masks and delivered masks statewide.

The volunteers were even able to clock hours that turned into FEMA credits.

"It started out just being worried for myself and my family," said Stephanie Bartlett, the director of Mask Up NM. "But then, having, you know, my best friend is a doctor, and knowing what she was going through, and that she signed up to help people but not to put yourself at risk. It honestly made me angry, and I think that anger kind of fuels a lot."

Sanchez, the founder of the group, lost her father-in-law to COVID-19 in December.

"Keep your guard up," Sanchez said. "Because you just don’t know exactly how this thing is going to end or change."

"We don’t want graduation to turn into a superspreader event and, you know, get anybody else who’s not vaccinated sick, and their siblings," Bartlett said. "Not much of a celebration if your whole family is sick."

Their next project is getting matching masks for all high school graduates at Albuquerque Public Schools.