She’s Had More Than 350 Masks Made. She’s Just Getting Started

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Los Angeles LGBT Center employee Tanya Tassi isn’t handy with a needle and thread, but she knows how to organize and to make things happen.

Since the local outbreak of COVID-19, Tassi has personally had more than 350 cloth masks made and delivered to people in the LGBTQ community who need them.

“I believe if you can help, you should help in a time of crisis,” she explains. “I’m a helper by nature, and I feel like I’m doing something for the community.”

Tassi, national community center policy manager for the Center’s Public Policy and Community Building department, launched the Make a Mask Project on her personal website. She provides the patterns and encourages self-quarantined people who can sew to make some masks and mail them to her for distribution.

“My project took off. I had a bunch of people who jumped right in, including staff members of the Center,” Tassi says. “At the very least, I want to get masks to our seniors and our Center clinic staff who could use a non-clinical grade mask.”

Although the Center provides front-line employees with PPE (Personal Protection Equipment), Tassi’s homemade cloth masks are being offered to prolong mask usage and supply and to allow employees to change to a cloth covering during their breaks and travels.

“As a gay man, having a stylish mask was important.”

Among those who have benefitted from Tassi’s project is David Parke Epstein, a senior who lives at the Center’s Triangle Square housing complex in Hollywood.

“I tried to order a mask online—and I don’t know if it’s a scam—but my mask was never delivered,” Epstein recalls. “I needed to get out to take a walk for my physical health. Tanya told me she was coming over to Triangle Square to deliver one. Because of social distancing, I couldn’t run over and give her a big hug.”

He was happy to have a mask at all but even happier once he saw it.

“One of the best things about the mask: it is not generic,” he says. “It’s nicely designed with great colors. As a gay man, having a stylish mask was important.”

While Tassi has given the bulks of the masks to seniors, clients, and Center staff, she has also made deliveries to the Long Beach LGBT Community Center and the LGBT Center in Orange County. She has also shipped a few individual masks to older adults in Colorado, Wisconsin, and Illinois after receiving several requests from strangers who found her site on the internet.

Tassi makes clear that a handmade cloth mask is not a substitute for  medical-grade masks which she is also collecting for those in the LGBT community who need them. The cloth masks, she explains, are a stylish and comfortable alternative for people who must go outside and interact with others during the pandemic.

Even though she has fulfilled all of the original orders and requests that came through the website or by word of mouth, Tassi’s work is not done.

“I’m going to keep collecting,” she promises. “I have people willing to make them and will continue until everyone is covered who needs to be covered.”

To learn more about the Make A Mask Project, click here.

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