Question: What’s a person who freely admits she can’t sew doing in an organization that is furiously stitching masks to send to hospitals all over Georgia?
Answer: Making a difference.
When the film and TV industry shut down, Local 600 1st Assistant Julie Donovan, a Local 600 member since 1996 based in Atlanta, quickly saw that there would be a need for masks and other personal protective equipment. Looking to help, she reached out to some costumers who had begun mask-making efforts and was pointed to a new Facebook page called Sewing Masks for Area Hospitals (SMAH) in Atlanta.
“They had just gotten going and only had a couple hundred people on the page,” Donovan said. “I basically harassed them until I got a phone call back. I said, ‘I can do logistics. I can’t sew. What do you need?’”
As it happens, the organization needed a skilled coordinator. In addition to her decades of work in camera (all three Hangover films, Furious 7 and the upcoming Netflix film The Starling), Donovan’s has traveled the world as a production supervisor and location manager. Someone who can figure out how to get 300 cases of gear shipped overseas can negotiate a mask-making maze during a stay-at-home pandemic, Donovan reasoned.
She jumped in to the SMAH endeavor and has been consumed with the effort ever since. No question, she’s made herself indispensable, said SMAH’s Communications Director Shelley Wunder-Smith.
“She is smart, efficient, and knowledgeable about SMAH’s processes and has almost singlehandedly built the front half of our supply chain,” Wunder-Smith said. “And she has done this with a real passion and love for SMAH’s mission to provide PPE for healthcare professionals, essential workers and the most vulnerable members of our community.”
Donovan oversees the ordering and delivery of kits to over 600 volunteers working in their homes. First, materials are delivered in bulk to warehouse spaces where they are broken down. Then, volunteer drivers drop off the kits to other volunteers who break them down further. Once the kits are ready, they are delivered to the people who do the actual sewing. A different team coordinates the pickup of completed masks and the delivery to the hospitals. Each step follows safety guidelines so that people all along the supply chain have minimal to no contact with each other.
“We can’t really have warehouse spaces with lots of workers. This is all basically done household-to-household,” Donovan said. “It’s been very bizarre to build an organization from the ground up all with volunteers who have basically never done anything like this before.”
The SMAH volunteers produce both surgical masks and cover masks that go over existing PPEs. The organization has delivered more than 30,000 masks to more than 85 hospitals and medical centers who have placed orders. The SMAH Facebook page – which includes instructions — has grown to more than 8,500 members.
In addition to Donovan, the SMAH ranks include Local 600 Director of Photography Hilda Mercado and Senior Publicist Elizabeth Driscoll. Several other organizations have contributed goods or resources to help out including UPS, the Atlanta Ballet and the Company Store.
“It’s really nice to see people stepping up so we can get the masks into the hands of the health care workers,” Donovan said. “Being surrounded by people who all they want to do is help has been incredible during this time.”
To learn more about Sewing Masks for Area Hospitals (SMAH), visit the website.