Kaufman heads up team of mask makers

Sharon Kaufman, co-owner of the Village Center for the Arts in New Milford, can find a creative use for just about anything.

So, when she recently came across surgical grade shoe covers, the light bulb went off.

They could be turned into masks with the addition of ear loops.

“People are connecting in so many ways,” she said of the collaborative efforts being made in the community to provide supplies to one another. “It’s really exciting.”

Kaufman initially made 40 masks from the shoe covers and gave them to Water Witch Hose Co. #2 in town.

Kaufman then expanded her mask-making skills.

Jayson Roberts, her partner and co-owner of VCA, located a donated sewing machine and Kaufman taught herself how to use it so she could begin making fabric masks.

“I knew the cutting of squares is something anyone can do,” Kaufman said. “Anyone can sit there and binge watch Netflix while cutting fabric.”

So, Kaufman rallied several of her neighbors, which include former and present students at VCA.

“We call ourselves the New Street Anti-COVID-19 Mask Making Factory,” Kaufman said.

One volunteer, Fiona Paredes, 16, and her mother, Malena Kamp, joined the team.

“We were walking the dog one day and Sharon asked us if we wanted to help,” Fiona related.

They agreed without much thought.

“My mom and I wanted to help out any way we could,” Fiona said, adding it “feels good” to help.

It takes about 30-40 minutes to make each mask, Kaufman said.

After learning the local hospitals were not in need of masks at the time, she reached out to Stamford Hospital, which accepted the donation.

“She was desperate for masks,” Kaufman said, noting she mailed a combination of surgical grade shoe cover masks and fabric masks.

“We are so grateful to Sharon for her generous donation of masks,” said Chris Riendeau, SVP of Fund Development at Stamford Health.

“PPE is a crucial resource for our physicians and nurses that are working so hard to care for our COVID-19 patients,” Riendeau said. “Every donation from the community helps Stamford Health during these challenging times.”

“The support of the communities we serve is having a profound impact,” the SVP said. “Our caregivers know the community has them in their hearts.”

Kaufman said she and her team of helpers continue to make masks.

“It’s a long process,” she noted. “You have to follow the steps, or it just doesn’t work well.”

“I’ve watched the entire series of ‘Ozark’ while sewing masks,” she said with a chuckle.

The art center donated 1,200 masks and hair covers last month to New Milford Hospital.