Million Mask Challenge
ALBUQUERQUE – Lissey Vancil always goes above and beyond for people. The North Valley Seventh-day Adventist Church member who owns an online cake business normally dedicates her time to making baked goods. However, when the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic slowed her business, she decided to use her talents to help her community in a different way. “I own a sewing machine and I had fabric,” said Vancil. “I know how to sew, so I wanted to put my skills to good use.” Lissey joined thousands of people who contributed to the “Million Mask Challenge” initiative, a global sew-a-thon aimed to support healthcare workers, and those in need, with homemade masks.
When she started making the masks, people in the United States were not sure about the effectiveness of wearing cloth masks. But as she heard reports of mask shortages, she kept sewing, thinking there would eventually be a need. Initially, Vancil donated masks to Family Practice Associates, a clinic in Taos, N.M., and to several healthcare workers in Texas and Colorado. By the time the Center for Disease Control and Prevention began recommending the use of cloth masks in April, her requests skyrocketed. She made masks for people in Albuquerque, including for a prosthetic clinic, and also shipped masks to family and friends who are caregivers all over the United States. She even made special military masks for an army unit in Albuquerque.
“People kept asking me how much I was charging for the masks and I would tell them they were free,” said Vancil. “If I charged for them, I wouldn’t be better than those individuals who took advantage of the situation. People were very generous and donated materials and money to cover costs. Some even donated money without getting a mask.”
Despite the challenges of at-home mask making, Vancil made and donated over 1,000 masks. She joined thousands of volunteers who felt the call to do something proactive to help during the pandemic. “Although I wasn’t on the front lines like the nurses and doctors who were fighting the virus directly, it was a way to help in uncertain times,” said Lissey. “The hours were long, and it was hard on my body, but it was well worth it. ”
By Debby Márquez, Communication Director