Local 1503 Member Sews Masks to Fight COVID-19 Spread


Sitting at a machine surrounded by quilting fabric and notions, Local 1503 member Michelle Chamisa stitches another reuseable face mask, one of dozens she’s sewn to help protect others during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Chamisa, a senior security officer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, came across a Facebook group of quilters making masks for hospitals hard hit by the coronavirus. 

Her mother Joan taught her a skill that is helping keep others healthy during the deadliest pandemic in a century. 

When Joan Chamisa died six years ago, she left a sewing room filled with tons of fabric. Armed with the basics, Chamisa said, “I had all the right materials just sitting here, things that belonged to my mom that I had no plan to use but couldn’t throw away.”

The quilting group was having a hard time finding cotton fabric and other supplies. “It wasn’t so much a decision to help as it was a call to urgent action,” Chamisa  said. “It’s like if there was an old-fashioned war going on and I was just sitting here on a pile of chainmail and shields. I thought, ‘I can’t NOT do this.’”

Then New York officials made the recommendation that everyone wear masks. Thinking of family, friends, and coworkers in need of protection, Chamisa took to Facebook and offered: “Who needs masks?” 

To date she has made some 150 reusable masks, sewing into the night to fill requests from as far away as Oregon. “I will keep on sewing for as long as I have to,” said the 13-year MMA employee. 

To fill a growing list of requests for reuseable masks, Chamisa set up a Venmo account. She gratefully accepts any donations to help with shipping and other expenses. 

“I am inspired to continue to offer my creations as a public service,” she said. “If I can inspire others to realize we have to take care of each other, then some good can come out of this crazy situation.”

“Michelle Chamisa is one example of the selflessness many Local 1503 and DC 37 members are showing during this global health crisis,” said Local 1503 President Rawle Campbell. “So many people are looking for ways to contribute. We can’t wait for government to figure this out. It’s great to see so many going beyond to think of ways to help others.”

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