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Sew Masks 4 Cincy

Sewing Experts Bring Heart and Hands to Help Local Healthcare Workers

Several months ago, as COVID-19 became a global pandemic and masks became scarce, two local women began a grassroots effort to have volunteers sew and donate masks to frontline healthcare workers. 

On March 19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) changed its guidelines and announced that medical professionals could use bandanas as a last resort to cover the face if they ran out of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Esther Kang was in a small group through Crossroads Church and called another member that works at UC Health to ask if she should get some people together to sew masks. 

The next day at noon, Sew Masks 4 Cincy started as a Facebook group and grew to 500 members by the end of the day.  From day one, the group started working closely with TriHealth on the design and style of the 100-percent cotton masks.

By the next day, Esther, founder and executive director of Sew Masks 4 Cincy, had an interview with WKRC alongside Lorel Studer, TriHealth speciality clinical nurse leader, and Jeff Norton, vice president for the TriHealth Institute for Safety, Reliability and Clinical Performance. After this interview aired, within only 72 hours of first creating the Facebook page, the group had more than 6,000 members.

Esther realized she needed help with logistics and called upon another friend and member of the Crossroads small group to help. Courtney DeGeorge-Allen became the official director of communications and volunteer management. 

Courtney helped with infrastructure and to streamline the organization as much as possible, ensuring a good outward-facing appearance and a seamless system.

“It truly felt like we launched a non-profit overnight,” Courtney remembers. “It was sort of a sprint at first, and we were addressing things as they came up because we had never experienced anything like this before. I’ve worked in the startup and entrepreneurial realm of Cincinnati for a while now assisting startups, but not necessarily starting my own business.

“I have a full-time job and Esther has a baby and is a full-time mom and teaches music lessons on the side, so we both have a lot going on. We realized that, if we wanted to be sustainable, we needed to become realistic with what our time allowed and to seek assistance in areas where we needed it.”  

Initially, the group had windows for donations and now have transitioned to a 24-hour model, thanks to their partnership with Crossroads.

“We ask as many people as possible to donate the masks back at Crossroads because then first, they are covered by our liability waiver,” explains Esther. “And secondly, we’re in direct contact with the people that need the masks the most and we give the masks directly to them.” 

In just two months, Sew Masks 4 Cincy donated more than 20,000 cloth masks to frontline facilities in the Greater Cincinnati Region. Between their Facebook group, webpage and email newsletter, they reach more than 10,000 members.  

Volunteers can join on-site teams at the five Crossroads drop-off locations throughout Greater Cincinnati (Mason, Oakley, Eastside, Westside and Florence, KY), or can join the team of volunteer sewers to create and donate masks.

Free sewing kits are available to borrow for two weeks at the Crossroads sites to then return with the completed masks. They currently have enough sewing kits to make it through the end of the year. 

“Recent studies have shown that when people are wearing masks, the potential to contract COVID-19 or pass it along has been pretty well-reduced,” Courtney recalls. “A mask helps more so than it doesn’t, and to be able to help with the shortages of PPE that we experienced back in March has been crucial. Being a part of that has been a really rewarding journey for us.” 

Sew Masks 4 Cincy has fulfilled the needs at St. Elizabeth Healthcare, Christ Hospital, UC Health, TriHealth and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and Hospital. They’ve also donated to over 100 frontline facilities throughout the Greater Cincinnati Region, including many more facilities in Liberty Township, Mason and Warren County. 

“Right now is kind of a scary time because the numbers are rising quickly nationally, and in particular in Cincinnati in Hamilton County and Fairfield,” Esther says. “The best thing we can do is to continue to provide masks to frontline workers to protect them and in turn protect ourselves and the Cincinnati community.”

With the need for masks changing, Sew Masks 4 Cincy now has specific facilities that receive masks monthly. In June, masks were donated to children and teens at frontline organizations and partnered schools. In July and August, masks were donated to faculty and staff at public schools in the area. 

Through September, the group will be primarily donating masks to local schools in need.

“Schools are supposed to start, so that’s been our primary shift in focus,” says Esther.  “Because we have fulfilled the need of masks for many frontline facilities and knowing that teachers, faculty, and staff, in particular, are going to be very exposed, we’re now trying to provide masks for them as well as low-income students.” 

According to Esther, a huge amount of masks have come out of the West Chester and Mason communities and the success of Sew Masks 4 Cincy is due to the fact that many people in Cincinnati have come together to sew and donate masks to the organization. 

One member even posted on the group’s Facebook page that she had been sewing regularly for ten hours a day. 

“The effects of this have been pretty amazing, and we’ve been contacted by people all over the nation that were starting to need masks, asking for help and we’ve also been contacted by people internationally,” says Esther.  

While there are similar organizations in other cities, they haven’t taken off like it did in Cincinnati, according to Esther. She estimates that Sew Masks 4 Cincy will have donated 30,000 masks by the end of the summer.

“We’ve been overwhelmed with the generosity of Cincinnatians getting involved with volunteering, donating resources and time to help protect our frontline heroes,” says Esther.

To get involved, visit or join the Facebook group “SewMasks4Cincy” for more information. You can also email them at


Two Mask Styles


Fitted Filter

  • A fitted filter mask cover design is a better fit and more comfortable on most face shapes and sizes, but does not fit everyone.

  • Slightly easier and quicker to make.

  • Can be made with elastic or fabric ties.

  • Has a pocket for a filter.

  • Has a casing for a removable nose wire.

  • The mask recipient provides the filter.

  • Option to make with elastic or fabric ties.

Pleated Filter

  • A pleated filter mask cover design fits a wide variety of face shapes and sizes.

  • Can be made with elastic or fabric ties.

  • Has a pocket for a filter.

  • Has a casing for a removable nose wire.

  • The mask recipient provides the filter.

  • Option to make with elastic or fabric ties.

You can learn more about making masks and where to find printed instructions and kits at the website.