In early March of 2020, the world felt as if it was ending. COVID-19 suddenly entered all of our lives and disrupted the rest of the year, taking away the normalcy in everything. However, some students and parents in Longmeadow wouldn’t sit around and accept the fact that this virus was rampaging throughout the country, and decided to take action against it. Mrs. Senay Asik, mother of Armen Asik, senior at Longmeadow High School, took it upon herself to sew masks by hand as a response to the coronavirus.
“After the initial shock, I started thinking about what I could do,” says Mrs. Asik. “At the time, masks were spared for first responders and medical workers, so there was a shortage of masks for the general public.” Knowing the fact that there was going to be a shortage of masks, she immediately posted a FaceBook announcement notifying people that she was going to start making masks. The post garnered the attention of multiple people in the area, and even some people from the other side of the country. “I ended up making around 500 masks,” says Mrs. Asik. “I either mailed them, delivered them, or people came and picked them up. The people who recieved my masks included family, friends, mail clerks, store clerks, first responders, and the largest amount was delivered to a home care company in Springfield.” She wasn’t alone in her efforts, as she became a member of a FaceBook group named “DIY Masks of Western Massachusetts.” Mrs. Asik explains how this group “provided immense support.” She says, “the people (primarily all women) in the group all found support and a platform to exchange ideas and materials for making masks.”
Making masks wasn’t easy either, as there were a number of factors to consider and it had to meet regulations/certain requirements. “There were factors based on my research that were important when making masks such as tightness of weave, the type of fiber, the number of layers, additional filter pockets, and nose wires to name a few,” says Mrs. Asik.
“I just wanted to make sure people were safe, protecting themselves and others while also reducing the burden on medical staff,” Mrs. Asik explains when asked about what her motivation was to make masks as a response to the pandemic. “When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, a feeling of sadness and helplessness took over and I started thinking that the current situation needed to change. I knew that I could make things, and I knew how to sew so I took it upon myself to make masks.”
This also helped her get through this quarantine phase by giving her a sense of productivity and contribution. “I was producing something, I was making something, I was contributing to the wellness of the community and beyond,” Mrs. Asik explains. “I didn’t think too much about it. I just felt that it was important for me to make a contribution to help solve the problem.”
Similar to Mrs. Asik, Longmeadow High School senior, Sontino Allentuck, felt that he needed to take action to try and alleviate the situation during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. With support from his family, he founded the Western Massachusetts Printing Collaborative, a collective that “consisted of a good amount of Longmeadow High School students as well as volunteers all over the country to help provide personal protective equipment (PPE) for our frontline workers during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The main objective of the collaborative was to 3-D print pieces of PPE, as there was a shortage back in the spring when coronavirus first made landfall in the U.S. “We printed and distributed about 2800 pieces of PPE,” says Sontino. “We worked with our country’s sheriff department and they distributed it to emergency services in the area such as firefighters, policemen, hospitals, doctor offices, and those who needed it.”
The motivation behind 3-D printing masks was the same for Sontino, his family, and his friends. “We really just wanted to find a way to fight against the pandemic,” says Sontino. “It was great to see how so many of my friends and fellow classmates jumped on and helped contribute to this effort. I was amazed by how quickly and diligently they joined to help me and it was really heartwarming to see everyone contributing in their own way.”
Some Longmeadow High School students who worked with Sontino included Armen Asik, Sam Barressi, Mitchell Brecht, Michael Daly, Alex Daviau, Wynne Dromey, Ella Hutchins, Sam Ollari, Alex Lam, Brooke Moss, and Maksim Tonyushkin.