It’s April. You go to your local grocery store, Hannaford, with your mask and gloves on. With your head down, you hastily make your way to the milk aisle desperately trying to avoid eye contact. The store is silent with occasional beeps. It appears our sense of community has disappeared.
In order to bring back our sense of community in Vermont mid-pandemic, Doug Altshuler started Masks4missions to brand masks with nonprofit organizations and host Vermont Mask Day to spread the awareness of mask-wearing.
Altshuler, a recent graduate of Groton School in Massachusetts, had already begun thinking of how to make an impact in his community. He has been a summer camp counselor and volunteer at Shelburne Farms every year with the exception of this one. It was unsettling for him to not be able to give back to his community this year, so he took initiative on his own.
“I decided, what if I make masks branded with nonprofit images and it started off just with Shelburne Farms? I was even [going to] just have a little lemonade stand out front selling little masks with their design on it,” Altshuler said.
Masks4Missions partners with Vermont nonprofits to design, make, distribute and sell COVID masks exhibiting images from their nonprofit partners. All profits go to their respective nonprofit partners.
Altshuler’s earliest supporter, Megan Camp the Vice President and Program Director of Shelburne Farms, pushed the idea of making and selling masks at Shelburne Farms. Initially, Altshuler wanted a small group of environmental nonprofits, which snowballed into adding nonprofits with positive messages. Altshuler’s support from the Vermont Community Foundation allowed him to gain advisors to continue building his support from nonprofit organizations.
Altshuler remembers making cold calls to at least eight nonprofits a day to gain further recognition and support. He described his experience as “juggling five balls when I can’t even juggle three.”
Altshuler had the opportunity to help write a bill that allowed Vermont’s legislature to designate Oct. 6 as Vermont Mask day. There was tremendous support from Representative Katie Webb, which Altshuler said was “integral” to the process.
Vermont Mask Day, held on Oct. 6, 2020, was a statewide celebration of Vermonters coming together virtually, and in mask-protected in-person events, to celebrate their community’s health and further spread the awareness of mask-wearing. The week of Vermont Mask Day was kicked off by a press conference where Gov. Phil Scott spoke about Mask4missions and their purpose. The week also had various activities planned across the state with nonprofit partners including Burlington City Arts, Vermont Food Bank and many others.
According to www.bbc.com, mask-wearing is a hot topic when it comes to differences of opinion. However, Altshuler is not let down by this. He simply fights for his message and knows he is backed up by science. A study at UC Davis shows that “the risk of infection to the wearer is decreased by 65 percent.” A press release from www.cdc.com confirms that “cloth face coverings are a critical tool in the fight against COVID-19 that could reduce the spread of the disease.”