When New York became the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in America, J.J. (Jennifer) Lee ’13
, an alumna and program manager at L’Oreal, found it difficult to witness the lack of masks and PPE available for essential workers.
“In between my work calls, I thought about recruiting people to make masks for people in need,” Lee said. “And I thought to myself, okay, who do I know who has sewing machines and scrap fabric at home?”
Lee found a solution which was both across the country and close to her heart — a partnership with members of FAST, the fashion club she had been president of when at UCLA. This resulted in United We Mask
, a sewing collective made up mostly of UCLA student members of FAST, who make masks for communities in need. When the Black Lives Matter movement began in early June, United We Mask expanded efforts to support social justice initiatives as well.
While the organization began as a way to alleviate mask shortage, United We Mask now has multiple ventures, including hosting workshops on how to sew masks and developing video tutorials on alternative protective coverings individuals can recreate with materials they may already have at home.
The organization now sees itself focusing on educational initiatives and ensuring compliance with mask-wearing in addition to its original goal of providing PPE to all who need it, said Lee, who graduated with a degree in computational and systems biology. United We Mask is also partnering with UCLA for Volunteer Day this year, she added.
“If anyone thinks that their organization is interested in a workshop, we’re happy to host one,” she said. “It’s a great way to bring people together for a good cause and teach them the skills so that they can make a difference in their communities.”