As the COVID-19 pandemic intensified in Utah last month, health care professionals began to prepare for a surge of sick patients and a converse decrease in protective medical gear for those who would treat them.
To find a solution, they turned to a most unlikely place — the Relief Society of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
As featured in a new Church News video, “ProjectProtect: The 5 million mask miracle,” thousands of Latter-day Saint women, joined by thousands more in a ready and responsive community, have answered the call.
As a result, Utah’s frontline health care workers are starting to receive clinical face masks — the first of 5 million — made by Utah residents.
President Jean B. Bingham, Relief Society general president, compared the individual efforts of the project to drops of water that, when combined and directed, form a waterfall.
She leads an organization of 7.1 million women worldwide and has been donning a face mask, gloves and other protective gear to work on the frontlines of ProjectProtect — the initiative formed by University of Utah Health, Intermountain Healthcare and Latter-day Saint Charities for the cause.
Initiative organizers sourced medical-grade material, designed a clinical face-mask pattern and invited the public to do the labor. Local quilting guilds and nonprofit organizations that support medical care in the area — and, of course, the Relief Society — responded.
How Project Protect, other COVID-19 mask efforts are transmitting faith, Relief Society leaders report
Volunteers continue to pick up unassembled kits and sewing instructions and promise to return the completed projects four days later so they can be processed and sterilized prior to distribution.
Surveying masks completed during the first weeks of a five-week initiative, President Bingham said she never questioned if the work would get done. From Relief Society women, and from others in this community, she simply expected it.
That’s what members of the Relief Society do, she said. “We look around, and we see what needs to be done. Each woman does that.”