St. Ann Center helps Milwaukee Mask-Up!

May 21, 2020

St. Ann Center for Intergenerational Care-Bucyrus Campus, 2450 W. North Ave., doubled as a mini mask-making factory on Wednesday, May 13, 2020. Staff members joined forces to make 700 masks, addressing the urgent need to stem the spread of COVID-19.

Staffers volunteered as part of the MaskUpMke challenge to create 3.5 million homemade non-surgical masks for healthcare providers and other essential service providers in Southeastern Wisconsin. St. Ann Center, an all-ages day care that serves children, frail elders and adults with disabilities, is temporarily closed as a precautionary measure prompted by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The center’s teachers, nursing assistants and administrators spread out in two large adult day care rooms. “We see this as an important way we can give back to our community and the entire Greater Milwaukee Community,” said Chief Operating Officer Diane Beckley. The Bucyrus Campus’ north side neighborhood was particularly hard hit by the virus.

St. Ann Center partnered in this effort with United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County and other nonprofits, businesses and foundations. Others include the Milwaukee Bucks, Medical College of Wisconsin, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Zilber Family Foundation, Ignite Change, Fiserv Forum, Habitat for Humanity and Saukville manufacturer Rebel Converting.

After learning of the shortage of masks nationwide and how it was affecting Milwaukee, Thaddeus Kryshak, a recent graduate in engineering and physics, spoke to his father Mike, owner of Rebel Converting about how they might be able to make face masks using the materials they were already using to produce hospital-grade disinfectant wipes. Thaddeus then developed a way to convert the same material used to manufacture hospital- grade disinfectant wipes into face masks that volunteers could easily assemble.

Initially, the mask kits were designed to be taken home and assembled by individual families. “I convinced United Way that St. Ann Center is a family,” Beckley said. “We have plenty of space for social distancing—so each of our volunteers had an entire table as a work station.”

After a 72-hour quarantine period, the face coverings will be distributed to the community under the guidance of the Medical College of Milwaukee.

Beckley is also a member of Milwaukee’s Stronger Together Collective, a group formed to get information about the pandemic out to the African American community. “The mask-making project dovetails perfectly with this effort,” Beckley said.