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This Hudson Valley Nonprofit Makes Masks and Saves Lives

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Unshattered founder Kelly Lyndgaard / Photo by Michael Nelson

Hopewell Junction’s Unshattered shifts gears from handbags to face masks to combat the coronavirus and keep its staff of women in recovery employed.

Unshattered, the Hopewell Junction-based nonprofit dedicated to teaching women in recovery to create handbags from repurposed fabrics, has a new mission during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organization has shifted production from making bags to making face masks for hospital workers and healthcare professionals. Hudson Valley reached out to Unshattered’s CEO & Founder Kelly Lyndgaard to learn more about their efforts to help protect frontline workers.

How did how the mask-making come about?

On March 20, when Governor Cuomo said at his morning press conference that all non-essential businesses cannot be in the office, we started building that plan to work from home making handbags.

And then [when] he put out the cry for the personal protective equipment that New York State was anticipating being short on, we thought, well, we can do that right away from our facility. We are closed to the public, but the team is there working under all the COVID protocol safety measures.

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro wears an Unshattered mask. Photo courtesy of the office of Marc Molinaro

What was the turn-around time?

We drafted a mask pattern and, by Friday night, we had been contacted by a physician from Vassar Brothers Medical Center who wanted to partner with us on a design and approve the fabrics and the specs of the mask. She came and met with us on Saturday morning.

By noon on Saturday we were in full production, making masks for the frontline healthcare providers. The team is at our facility in Hopewell Junction working under all of the COVID protocol safety measures.

How did your staff handle this change?

I know you already know this, but all of our women on the team, all the employees that are in production are women who are in recovery from addiction. I just was astounded to watch them turn on a dime, up-end the entire business, and figure out an entirely new manufacturing strategy, process, layout, and product — and how to be efficient at it.

It was incredible to see their resilience. They were happy, they did not complain one time, they were problem-solvers. And they were grateful to be serving the community. One of the women on the team said, “Please thank the community for trusting us to serve in such a noble way.” Their perspective on the opportunity that it created for them was really incredible. Their job could completely change, and yet they didn’t bat an eye, they were just rock steady.

I feel like this crisis, as terrible as it is, has really proven the model; we are focused on providing community, purpose, and economic stability for women in recovery and, when you have those components, you can withstand an awful lot of external pressure.

Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro wears an Unshattered mask. Photo courtesy of the office of Marc Molinaro

How is your staff doing as far as their health? Do you have anybody who’s been directly affected?

We do not. They have all been healthy. One of the perks of our program for women is 100 percent of the team has been able to move out of transitional housing, but they do live with roommates. They all have their own home or apartment, but most of them live with one or two other people. It has felt relatively safe because they’re already in groups of two or three so there’s not tons and tons of exposure in the building.

The mask-making is helping us stay alive and keep the ladies employed; I’m still paying everybody their full wages. They’re the most economically and emotionally vulnerable population and it’s so critical to keep them in the community and connected and doing something meaningful.

How can people help?

We are donating all of the masks that we’re making. We are donating the materials and supplies to make it and so we’ve counted on the community to help us fund that work at https://masks.funraise.org/. We also introduced a community collection program which we call the social distance sewing circle. So people at home could make masks and then donate them to a collection bin outside of our office.

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