Six weeks ago, Relief Society General President Jean B. Bingham asked members of the Church of Jesus Christ to join Utah’s ProjectProtect effort to produce 5 million medical-grade masks to help health-care workers during the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
On June 20, at the end of an added “encore week,” volunteers gathered the last of nearly 6 million masks sewn by more than 57,500 volunteers from around the state of Utah.
In total, those volunteers donated some 800,000 hours picking up, folding, sewing and delivering more than 5.7 million masks.
“This project has required such a sustained effort,” President Bingham said following the project’s completion. “It has been heart-warming and somewhat amazing to see the dedication of the volunteers who have showed up, week after week, to cheerfully pick up the kits and then tearfully — and gratefully — deliver the finished masks. I’ve seen mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, friends and neighbors, old and young, rally around this cause.”
ProjectProtect — which started as a five-week community initiative organized by University of Utah Health, Intermountain Healthcare and Latter-day Saint Charities — has provided the clinical face masks and other types of personal protective equipment for Utah’s front-line health care professionals treating COVID-19 patients. But as President Bingham explained at the end of the project, participating in the effort has also been a blessing for many.
“During these difficult weeks of wondering what else could possibly go wrong in the environment and society around us, one sister said, ‘This has been a lifesaver for me. With all my own problems, this has given me a way to focus on others,’” President Bingham said. This young mother, who made nearly 2,000 masks herself, is an example of how serving others in times of difficulty can be a blessing, she added.
Although the project began with major pick-up and drop-off locations for the masks manned by volunteers located at various Deseret Industries locations around the state, the addition of a “porch program” expanded participation.
“Besides the DI drop-off and pick-up system, there are those who have participated in the ‘porch program’ — people who volunteer to set up a pick-up and drop-off location on their front porch,” President Bingham said. “Sewers didn’t even ring the doorbell; the whole process was taken care of without personal interaction, which limited the possibility of transmission of the virus.”
Participants in the porch program made project involvement easy for anyone in their neighborhood to join the effort by being able to pick up kits and deliver masks on any day and at virtually any time, President Bingham said.
Sister Sharon Eubank, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency and president of Latter-day Saint Charities, noted that from the beginning of the project there was no doubt the community would respond and help meet the needs of the project. Still, the end results of the project were even better than anticipated.
“The astounding thing is that there was never a shortage of people wanting to help,” President Bingham said.
“We are exceedingly grateful for every single volunteer who sewed or folded or picked up or delivered any of the 5 million-plus medical grade masks,” President Bingham said. “Our hearts are full of joy and thanksgiving for the love that was shown by the volunteers. Truly, ‘charity never faileth’ in these magnificent women and men.”