Upcycle It Now

Upcycle It Now co-founder Christina Johnson wears a prototype of the masks that her and her mother are producing to give away.

As healthcare workers are picking up extra shifts to help manage an influx of patients, one Long Beach mother and daughter duo are aiming to supply those workers with homemade masks in case there are shortages of medical-grade face masks.

"Our idea for these is to supply the face masks to the general public," Christina Johnson, co-founder of Upcycle It Now, said. "But if medical workers are in need, we want to be able to supply them first."

Upcycle It Now is a manufacturing company that turns unused textiles and materials into products for resale. Johnson started the venture with her mother Liz Bordessa, who had occupied the space for decades earlier under the name Just Alterations.

Now with Upcycle It Now deemed a non-essential business, the company has temporarily shut its doors. Without work coming in, Johnson said they had to put their employees on temporary leave and hope that life will get back to normal soon enough to reopen the shop.

"With the coronavirus, everything was deemed non-essential, so we decided the best action was to give employees two weeks paid leave and close everything down," she said. "But we have all this time, and quickly we knew there was a need for face masks, and we could produce them in a large production."

On Saturday, March 21, Johnson said that they started testing the design. According to the Centers for Disease Control, homemade face masks, although not medical grade, are acceptable face shields. The masks should cover the mouth and nose, extending below the chin and to the sides of the face.

The masks are made out of cotton materials, are washable and have a slit to place a filter between the lining of the fabric and can be used over and over again until it breaks.

"We understand that this is not the best option, so we are letting everyone know that these are not medically certified," she said. "But what we are doing is reducing the amount the particles you breathe in, and it's better than nothing."

They started a GoFundMe with the goal of raising $50,000 to pay for supplies, as well as to pay their employees to help them manufacture the masks. All masks will be donated, either to the general public or to healthcare offices, and the amount raised from the GoFundMe will determine how many masks they will be able to make.

"We are already getting a lot of nurses and doctor's offices and people working around those areas asking for masks," she said. "It really emphasizes the need."

Johnson added that they sent a proposal to the city requesting help acquiring supplies and with distribution. If they are able to secure any help, Johnson said they will work on upping the production number.

"My sister, who is a nurse, said it best," she said. "Ideally we don't want the general public competing with the hospitals for medical grade masks, so it would be awesome to get more quality homemade masks out in the public so the hospitals don't need to compete."

People can help by donating gently used high thread count bed sheets or quilts. A drop box is available outside their location at 6545 E. Pacific Coast Hwy, or by making a donation to the GoFundMe at gazettes.com/go/mask.

For more information about Upcycle It Now, go to www.upcycleitnow.com.

Stephanie Stutzman can be reached at sstutzman@gazettes.com.

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