Mercer Island Emergency Preparedness volunteers along with some police and fire employees were on the scene Aug. 28 for another free mask Friday.
With one tent set up in the parking lot of the former Tully’s in Mercer Island Town Center and another tent situated on one of the street corners, residents drove through and strolled by the spots to receive reusable cotton masks and have a quick chat. The latest in a bevy of mask-giveaway events since March took place from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“We can’t overstate how appreciative we are of our trained Emergency Preparedness volunteers, who have been giving their own time for months in all manner of ways to help Islanders stay healthy and avoid COVID-19. Thanks to a bulk donation of masks from King County, volunteer teams have now handed out over 6,000 reusable cloth masks and they’re not done yet,” said Ryan Daly, operations chief for the city’s pandemic response.
While taking a break during the giveaway, lead Emergency Preparedness volunteer Dave Uhler said that in March, the masks were handmade on the Island with volunteers putting them together. They’ve since received some grants from the county and on Aug. 28 they were distributing Hanes masks. Occasionally, people will donate handmade masks that are also available at events.
Uhler said they’ve received a great reaction from those getting their masks from the volunteers, who also spend their time at parks for senior hours on Friday mornings and at other events.
On a personal note, Uhler said that his 85-year-old mom lives with his family and they’ve been taking care of her.
“So every time she goes out and we need to take her to a Rite Aid or to whatever appointment she’s got, it’s just nice to be able to know that we’ve got a community where people are trying to keep each other safe,” he said. “Doing this (the mask giveaways) just makes it that one more step easier for everybody to keep each other safe.”
Mercer Island Police Department officer Jennifer Franklin, the city’s Emergency Preparedness manager, said that the host of volunteers are making a difference in the tight-knit community. The city launched its Emergency Preparedness program 12 years ago and there are currently a dozen different teams of volunteers involved.
“I think that having our volunteer team already set was really a benefit for the mask giveaway. They went ahead and just went out to the parks, especially when this first started, they were out there wanting to get people all masked up,” said Franklin, adding that masks are always available in the police department lobby and are passed out to visitors at the local food bank.