“Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping,” Fred Rogers said. In recent weeks, we’ve seen our world turned upside down and it can be difficult to remain positive but we’ve seen many people find ways to show us that there are still good things happening all around us. From barren store shelves to stay at home orders to the seemingly impossible task of finding Personal Protective Equipment for first responders and medical personnel, our lives have become quite complicated and, at times, scary. It was the overwhelming need for PPE, mainly masks that spurred one Vista native into action and created a wide reaching movement that has touched many lives. Michelle Harvey grew up in Vista and graduated from Vista High. She owns and operates Harvey Homes Real Estate and even started another business, Good Karma Candles, with her son.. Good Karma Candles began as a way to give back to the Ronald McDonald House year round by donating the proceeds from every candle sale.
When asked how she got started in making masks, Michelle says, “Almost a month ago, my friend Angie, who is an ICU RN mentioned on Facebook that Tri-City was going to be accepting fabric face masks. I immediately sat down to see if I could sew a mask. The only reason we had a sewing machine is because my son asked for one for Christmas. We are both learning how to sew by watching YouTube which was where we started looking for tutorials.
The same day Angie got the final approval from Tri-City. I immediately got her my 3 masks which were the first ones turned into Tri-City. I posted on our local NextDoor that Tri-City needed masks and quickly received hundreds of responses. It started to get hard to manage (I never intended for my post to have that much impact) so I started a Facebook group. I agreed to help another NextDoor poster with Scripps Encinitas, along with my original intent, Tri-City. Several founding members were from NextDoor and are Vista, Carlsbad, Oceanside residents. We had 2 local sewing businesses jump on (Sew O’Side and Quilt in a Day) who were handing out mask kits. I quickly started having people reach out and ask for masks. We quickly started gaining requests from many hospitals, organizations and even the military.
In addition to helping organizations, this site is also intended to help and educate those who want to make their own masks, or make masks for family or friends. It is a helpful environment where we encourage each other to help.”
In less than one month, Michelle’s group has gone from just 1 member to over 1,300. She is hoping for more people who can sew to join the ranks and assist those who have been working daily to meet the ever growing request list.The one rule she enforces absolutely is that everyone must agree to never sell a mask or take monetary donations for them. All of the masks are donated and it is a 100% volunteer group. Members share fabric, elastic and most of all, a sense of purpose. While they are fulfilling orders for as far away as a U.S. military base in Japan and have members from all over, the group prioritizes local hospitals and organizations. Michelle estimates that in the 5 or so weeks since she started the group, the members have sewn and donated approximately 15,000 masks.
If you, or someone you know, would like to help Michelle in this giant giving project, you can visit and join the group on Facebook with the following link https://www.facebook.com/groups/302804657367187/?ref=share. If you don’t have/do Facebook, you can still help by emailing Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org. She isn’t just looking for people who can sew either, if you are willing to deliver finished masks or donate materials, she would more than welcome the help. In Michelle’s words, “We are all a team in every sense of the word, and I am so proud to be a part of this.”
Many other Facebook groups have begun similar projects over the past few weeks. They are not only fulfilling a need but are giving community members a sense of purpose and accomplishment. It is easy to feel helpless during times like these but, as Michelle has shown, it doesn’t have to be big, to make a big impact.
I appreciate what you did, thanks Michelle!