Masks for All New Jersey: How You Can Make a Difference


Jacqueline Kim, Staff Writer

In the midst of the pandemic, we’ve seen the rise of many global and local heroes. Doctors, nurses, healthcare workers, essential business market employees, and even the workers at your local grocery store have continued about daily work in order to provide for the greater community. Even right here in our own town, Tenafly High School students have taken it upon themselves to partake in an effort to help the community. 

Masks for All New Jersey (MFANJ), a branch of a larger organization in California, Masks For All CA, works to produce homemade masks to redistribute to the greater community. The organization has also expanded to other regions in the U.S., such as New Mexico and New York, in an effort to provide and protect communities across the nation, especially those that have less access to protective equipment. The project is geared towards distributing homemade masks to “underserved” communities, such as senior care facilities and funeral homes.

MFANJ was founded here in Tenafly by high school student Kathy Zhang (’23), who is now director of operations for the New Jersey establishment. Having gotten in contact with the co-founder of the California institution, high school student Michelle Song (’21), Michelle and Kathy managed to coordinate a subdivision of the association in New Jersey. Since then, positions have been filled as follows: Director of Operations, Kathy Zhang; Social Media Manager, Karly Hui (’23); and Director of Communications, Rhea Raghu (’23). Many volunteers have joined the project, and shipments of supplies from California arrived on June 3rd. Following a system of allotted times, volunteers have picked up supplies and have gotten to work, aiming to produce as many masks as possible in order to launch their first distribution to the Tenafly Senior Center.

MFANJ shares nonprofit benefits, and all donations are 100% tax-deductible and free of charge. Most of the funds behind the organization depend on donations and securities from California. Secured grants from the larger organization have ranged between $3,000 to $10,000 for materials and equipment—such as sewing machines, thread, fabric, and elastic— to be provided across the smaller branches. 

As the organization works upon a volunteer-based system, others are encouraged to participate in the project. Since the establishment of the association in early May, MFANJ has amassed about 22 volunteers and continues to expand. Getting involved in MFANJ is a simple way to step up and make a difference in your community. Volunteers are not expected to own any equipment prior to serving, and will be provided with any necessary supplies. Volunteers are also not required to know how to sew. In fact, volunteers are split into divisions of those who know how to use and own sewing machines, those who can hand-sew, and those without any knowledge of sewing. Among these divisions, work requirements and logistics are adapted to best suit the needs of each individual. And although the mask designs are fairly simple, sewing classes are offered to potential volunteers who may not be familiar with it. In addition to all this, committed volunteer work will count towards volunteer hours. 

Director of Communications Rhea Raghu encourages others to partake in this project. “During these uncertain times, we all must have strength and dedication to help our weakened community,” she said. “By being a part of MasksForAllNJ, we hope that our network of volunteers and our board members can look back on this experience and congratulate themselves for demonstrating strength, courage, and passion during these tumultuous times.”

Stephanie Ng (’23), a member of the operations staff, adds, “Even the simplest task may help better the people in our community. During this pandemic, we need to come together and protect those who are most susceptible to the virus. Creating masks is a very simple and effective way to help. We give courage to those who are afraid to go out and protection to people in our community. This is why I decided to make masks for MasksForAllNJ. We all have the ability to make a difference and to better our community.”

In order to find more information concerning the organization, volunteering opportunities, or commitments to the project, contact MFANJ at [email protected], and follow their Instagram handle: @masks.forallnj.