A community of volunteers joins to make facemasks

Thu, 04/09/2020 - 5:45pm

The Block Island community is coming together during this daunting time, a show of how resilient and uplifting this small island can be.

Island residents Sven Risom and Amy Doran started a project to get island residents involved in making facemasks for those who did not have one or could not find one. After they began this community-wide initiative, the two posted updates to social media  on how to create and distribute the masks. Risom posted that he and his wife Laura, who own and operate North Light Fibers, “started making masks from material we have here at the house . . . The fabric should be washable and 100 percent cotton is preferable as it is tightly woven . . . The lining of the mask should be a different color or pattern so it is clear which is the outside,” said Risom.

“We are all working together on the mask effort — a real community effort. Amy and I are doing more of the coordination, logistics and packing,” said Risom. Doran noted there were volunteers reaching out to her who were interested in making the masks.

Some masks were made available in a box at Harbor Church.

“There is a batch ‘brown-bagged’ at Harbor Church. Drive around back, [and] walk in the back double doors,” said Doran. Risom added the “Medical Center is also providing masks so that they can be divided up.” Others were handed out directly.

“Masks have also been given to folks — for example, Mary [Stover] delivered masks to Dan Cahill and Peter Wood yesterday . . .  and Kellie has given many out,” said Risom.

Doran said island volunteers have been “cranking out masks for the community. After many direct messages, texts, calls and emails about who, what, when, where and how to safely collaborate, this is what has developed.”

All masks are free and “made with love,” said Doran, adding that about “100 handmade masks have been given out on Block Island” in the first few days of the effort.

“We’re working hard to keep up with the need. Afterwards, we can fill mainland requests too,” said Doran.

Doran went on to add, “If you make a mask to donate, place it in the drop box at Salt Pond Settlement. Completed masks (with CDC washing and wearing recommenced instructions) are available at Harbor Church and stocked as more are made.”

Supplies for making the masks can also be dropped off at Salt Pond Settlement, which includes fabric, thread, fabric cutters, new brown paper lunch bags, pipe cleaners and elastic.

“We are collecting masks and materials at a drop off (bin on the porch) at Salt Pond Settlement, and then packing up three-mask packs along with a 1/page handout (attached) for each person. The three masks are: one to wear, one to wash, and one to dry,” said Risom.

To help with cutting fabric, sewing the masks, or to volunteer time as a driver in distributing the masks, please reach out to Doran at (401) 632-7308 or email sunblock02807@gmail.com. The Risoms can be reached at sven@northlightfibers.com or at (401) 932-8510 for Sven, and (401) 932-8599 for Laura.

Volunteers on the island who have contributed to making the masks, providing supplies and their services include Mary Stover, Dorrie Fiorato, Kellie Donovan, Laura Risom, Kay McManus, Kay Transue, Marion Ortel, Bethany Campbell, Petie from the Hardware Store, Cindy Kelly, Carole Leslie, Julian Murphy, Carolyn from Lazyfish, Augusta, Diane from Rose Farm Inn, Darren Gill, Mary Stover, Ann Fagan, Vicki Carson, and Liz from Traveling Seamstress to name a few.

Donations of fabric have been gifted by the quilting group members, and the Harbor Church and Chamber of Commerce have offered their time and efforts, according to Risom.

When asked if masks will be available for this week and into next week at Harbor Church, Doran stated “we are not going to stop making them.”

“If anyone wants to make a money donation, here are two local groups that do so much for our community,” said Doran.


Block Island Health Services 

PO Box 919

Block Island, R.I. 02807

Mary D. Fund

PO Box 323

Block Island, R.I. 02807