AAA Northeast employees are helping each other get through the COVID-19 pandemic in many ways.
Amid concerns for co-workers on the front line of the crisis, a group of employees has organized an effort to make face masks for roadside technicians and the staff that assists them. Led by Patti Artessa, regional director of public affairs in Utica, N.Y., about a dozen volunteers in various locations are lending their sewing skills to the cause.
Kayla Broadmeadow, administrative assistant for public affairs at Providence headquarters, brought the idea for this project forward. Her brother, Chris Broadmeadow, is a roadside technician in Rhode Island. Given the national shortage of protective gear, she worried that the club’s stock of face masks for essential employees might run low and wondered if there was a way to ensure a constant supply.
Kayla spoke to Artessa, who saw an opportunity to donate her time and crafting expertise to support the AAA community.
Word about the volunteer initiative spread around the club when John Galvin, president and CEO, mentioned it in his weekly email message to employees on April 19. Since then, Artessa and her team have been busy.
“This has shown how a small group of us can make a big difference,” Artessa said. “Our team has been pumping out masks left and right, which is phenomenal. It’s so rewarding to get a response and hear how much people appreciate it.”
How It’s Made
While most volunteers are using sewing machines, some of the masks have been hand stitched with care. The main pattern for the masks consists of three layers of assorted patterns of fabric, which volunteers gather or purchase.
“First, I wash the material. Then I iron it and cut out a bunch at one time,” Artessa said. “Once I have enough, I begin sewing,” Artessa said. “You can go online to Joann Stores or Michaels for different ideas.”
Each mask takes roughly 20 minutes to make, Artessa said.
Stacie Harvey, branch manager in Oneonta, N.Y., and Rachel Stark, branch manager in Utica, N.Y., joined Artessa’s team in the last days of April, which is designated as National Volunteer Month. Harvey said that they viewed the initiative as a perfect opportunity to contribute during a time when they were feeling unable to help.
“Volunteering in our communities is something that is always on our minds,” she said. “Seeing how the coronavirus has changed so many lives, we knew we had a task of helping out our own employees.”
Harvey and Stark found time to make the masks in between learning new temporary roles at the club and working with their staffs remotely. Assisting in the effort has been a rewarding experience.
“This virus has challenged us in more ways than we can imagine, but at the end of every day we need to work together to stay safe and healthy, so we can continue to go home to our families,” Harvey said.
After several weeks and hundreds of masks delivered, Artessa and her team hope to inspire others to volunteer their time and talents from home.