Orlando – Once just for healthcare workers, face masks are now a part of everyday attire because of the coronavirus.
But initially, they weren’t as easy to come by. So one local woman said she found a way to put her skills to use and do her part to get results.
“Honestly, if you talked to 19-year-old me and if you told her, ‘One day your sewing skills can actually help save peoples lives,’ she would’ve laughed at you,” said Ha’Ani Hogan.
Hogan is the Development and Marketing Manager for Downtown Arts District, but she’s found a second passion as a volunteer face mask maker. She said as soon as the coronavirus pandemic came to Orlando, she knew she had to help.
“Everyone tries to find a purpose or be altruistic in times of crisis,” said Hogan.
So when her friend and professional tailor reached out to help create face masks, she grabbed her sewing machine and answered the call.
“We wanted to be ahead of the curve. We knew that face masks will be needed,” said Hogan.
So Hogan, along with more than 200 others created Orlando Face Mask Strong. The group now has more than 1,000 members on Facebook.
“We all had different roles,” said Hogan. “It was a massive production.”
A production of all volunteers that created and delivered over 20,000 masks in a few short months.
“Like MakerFX was one of our big ones. They used their laser cutter to cut face mask bases,” said Hogan. “And then drivers would drop it off to the sewers, we would sew it, and then they would pick it up and take it places. We were exhausted. We were all so tired. We all have our normal jobs, but then we would know we had to make 100 masks by the end of the week and get them out to hospitals.”
Hospitals that included Nemours, Orlando Health and AdventHealth facilities. Hogan said the most time consuming and expensive type of mask was made up of medical grade fabric and metal used to withstand the hours of wear and sanitizing.
“It’s not perfect, but it’s better than doctors having to use the same mask for 10 days straight, that’s awful,” she said.
For months, Hogan kept threading the needle and working long hours. But she said that continued emails from nurses or senior homes asking for the masks just helped reignite the flame. Her unwavering commitment to her community is why she’s being honored as one of our every day heroes.
"I'm still having a hard time with the title local hero because it's so weird to think that way," said Hogan. "It was addicting to be part of because everyone was like, 'How can I help?'"
Hogan said her proudest moment came as Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer requested an official City of Orlando face-covering for a press conference.
“He wore it as his official statement that we need to protect each other, let’s wear these masks, and I was like, ‘I made something that Mayor Dyer is wearing,’” she said.
And even three months later, Hogan is still getting results - one mask at a time.
“Knowing that being creative can actually help people was really special,” she said.