Newcomers and Friends Club Helps Area Institutions Through Mask
By STEVE GALLUZZO | Sports Editor
There is no problem that cannot be solved with vision, talent, dedication and teamwork—take it from the women from the Newcomers and Friends Club of Pacific Palisades who have put their skills to action since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to sew masks and prepare personal protective equipment for institutions throughout Los Angeles.
The endeavor was first inspired by a member who was making masks for her family. Watching the nightly news and seeing healthcare and other essential workers begging for protection, she appealed to her fellow club members to get involved, and that they did.
Hundreds of masks have since been delivered to institutions across the county, including the Westside VA Hospital, Providence St. John’s Hospital and LA County USC Medical Center.
The dedicated team is now busy sewing sleeves with protective elastic wrist bands to retrofit the hospital gowns at the Los Angeles Jewish Nursing Home.
“My daughter is an ER doctor back east and said there was a need for cloth masks,” Club Co-Chair Fran Blaustein said. “I decided to make some for my family and donate some. I mentioned to [fellow Co-Chair] Janet Rotner what I was going to do and how anxious I was because the fabric was taking so long to arrive.”
Blaustein explained that Rotner immediately offered help, asking an upholsterer friend if he had any fabric he could provide.
“He provided so much that I knew I couldn’t do all the sewing myself,” Blaustein shared. “Since I’m very involved with the Newcomers, I decided to reach out and so began ‘The Newcomer Mask Project.’”
The team includes eight sewers, four pattern cutters—Rotner has cut more than 500 pieces herself—numerous T-shirt cutters, washers and women who donated cash to help.
“All we were missing was elastic,” Blaustein said. “It could take weeks, if not months, to get any. Even stretchy hair bands couldn’t be found.”
Rotner sold Blaustein on the idea of using T-shirt strips as ties.
“Voila! Everything fell into place,” Blaustein said. “I searched the web for tutorials on how to make easy masks, downloaded the patterns, made cardboard forms and gave them to Janet. Women gave us sheets, tablecloths and men’s shirts to use as linings for the masks. We asked for cotton T-shirts, and so many were donated that I stopped counting.”
Since its first delivery of 100 masks to St. John’s in early April, the team, headed by Blaustein and Rotner, has expanded to over 25 women, including sewers Tracy Baum, Esther Cooperbrand, Diana Cotter, Martina DiLillo, Inae Ha, Marie Gregor, Layne Lepes, Wendy Windebank and Judy Petrocino; and cutters/helpers Ilene Trabolsi, Lore Meline, Karen Gidwitz, Eileen Sheiniuk, Marcia Horowitz, Judy Blits, Suzanne Price, Susi Lynch, Linda LeBlanc, Donna Galvin, Hye Morawiec, Barbara Rosenblum, Ann Reisner, Lynn Alschuler, Jan Victor, Aulana Peters and Peggy Shaprio.
“Fran must have sewn over 800 herself,” Rotner said. “She was a whiz and we were busy bees in the early days. Everyone worked so hard and at a breakneck pace to get the masks out to non-essential healthcare workers early in the pandemic.”
The Mask Project has since delivered 600 masks to Happy Trails for Kids and The Book Foundation for a back-to-school backpack drive benefiting children in the Los Angeles foster care system.
Happy Trails for Kids was formed in 1982 as a summer camp by Palisadian Pepper Edmiston and now serves 400 children in foster care. The Sew Chateau (located in the Village) helped the cause by opening for group members by appointment and offering them discounts, and Cy’s Drapery also assisted in the effort by donating.
“Please thank your team for the masks,” The Book Foundation Executive Director Ruth Stalford said in an email to Rotner. “They were a huge hit with the foster kids and much appreciated by the foster parents. To have something new and customized for these kids is very meaningful to them. The masks you gave me are by far my favorites and are fully in the rotation.”
Happy Trails Camp Director September Sucher also expressed her appreciation to Rotner: “I want to thank you and your group for the incredible donation of the masks. They are absolutely beautiful! It’s obvious so much time, thought and love went into making them. We were able to distribute quite a few during our Back to School Grab N Go. We are so grateful to you and the other ladies for your support.”
Over 100 members strong, Newcomers and Friends of Pacific Palisades is a social groupthat helps neighbors become friends through a variety of gatherings and outings like bridge, Canasta, Mahjong and Scrabble groups; golf, tennis, hiking and Just Coffee and Happy Hour meet-ups; book, film and cultural explorer groups; restaurant luncheons and parties.
For more information on how to get involved or donate, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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