United Way Centraide North East Ontario (UWCNEO) is fighting the pandemic in its own unique way.
Recognizing that thousands of Northerners have not been able to afford their own reusable face mask, United Way is stepping up with Project Mask Task. With several corporate donations of reusable masks, UWCNEO has launched a program to have thousands of masks distributed in Sudbury and other locations across Northeastern Ontario.
"The program is really meant to address the need for reusable masks for people who are vulnerable at this time because of COVID-19," said Mary Lou Hussak, the executive director of UWCNEO.
She said United Way serves several areas of Northeastern Ontario, and the masks will be provided to people who cannot afford to purchase a reusable face mask on their own. She said distribution points will be advertised in each community.
"For Sudbury, for example, for people who need a mask, they are encouraged to contact us and we will direct them to an agency where they can pick up a mask." The phone number for United Way Centraide in Sudbury is 705 560-3330.
She added the decision to launch a mask campaign was the result of United Way learning that so many people needed masks.
"Through conversations with community partners, there was an identified need for reusable masks," said Hussak. "People weren't able to access services. People weren't able to get into buildings, or onto buses and things like that."
Hussak said several donors agreed to purchase masks that could be distributed to people in need who choose to have masks. More than 11,000 masks have been allocated to Sudbury and roughly 8,000 masks are allocated to Timmins, she said.
"Our goal is to ensure that vulnerable children, seniors, and others who need reusable masks be equipped to protect themselves and those around them," said Hussak. “We are working closely with local health units, frontline service providers, and school boards to co-ordinate the distribution of masks through partnering agencies.”
In addition to the reusable face masks, UWCNEO will be distributing over 1,500 litres of hand sanitizer, generously donated by Canadian Tire, to assist organizations that have adapted or increased their services to help people disproportionately impacted by COVID-19, said Hussak.
She added that through the Local Love in a Global Crisis Community Response Fund, United Way Centraide North East Ontario/Nord-est de l'Ontario is looking to partner with front-line service providers to distribute free, reusable masks to as many vulnerable people across the region as possible. Organizations needing masks are invited to visit uwcneo.com to fill out a quick survey.