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Island Park woman makes, donates facemasks to hospitals

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In response to coronavirus, many have stepped up to make and donate facemasks. One volunteer mask-maker is Island Park resident Carolyn Oddo Leach, who owns a small dressmaking company, Giavanna’s Closet.

Not even two weeks ago, Leach realized the increased need and started making the masks. She already had tons of colorful, patterned fabric in her sewing room — “you wouldn’t believe how many shelves of fabric I have,” Leach noted.

Now, she has made several hundred, with many more on the way.

“People are requesting 10 to 20 at a time,” she explained. “I’m getting anywhere from 50 to 75 requests a day. It seems like every time I make some, they either want more, or five or six more people reach out.”

Most requests come from nurses and healthcare workers for their teams, in which case she donates the masks, Leach said. If non-healthcare workers want the masks, she asks for a $5 donation for supplies so she can continue making more.

So far, Leach has donated to workers at Memorial Sloan Kettering, NYU Winthrop, Stony Brook and LIJ hospitals.

To fulfill all the requests, she’s enlisted some help. Thirteen-year-old Marysol Alvarado, of Island Park, is helping out to make the masks. In addition, Leach has the backing of her family — her 9-year-old daughter, Giavanna, sews half of each mask, and then Leach finishes them off. Her 13-year-old son, Jordan, cuts off the strings on the ends, and her husband is cutting fabric and pinning, she said.

“It’s keeping us all occupied,” Leach said, “and it’s a good lesson for them, to give back.”

The designs on the masks have caught people’s attention, and the need is not going away. Leach had originally reached out on social media for donations for supplies to keep making masks. Now, she has requests from all over, including Arizona, Alaska, Florida and Pennsylvania.

“I just am heartbroken that we’re at this point that so many people are in such need,” Leach said, “and for as long as I can, I’ll keep sewing to keep up supply.”