Making A Difference

Re:new Project Producing Masks for Organizations Across Chicago

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A group of refugees who have made new lives for themselves in DuPage County are now sewing protective masks for the public’s safety.

The Re:new Project, based in suburban in Glen Ellyn, employs ten artisans who escaped violence in different parts of the world.  They all graduated from the Re:new Project’s sewing class, and while they normally design and create handbags and purses for sale, the artisans are now focused on making masks that follow CDC guidelines.

“While the shelter is in place and masks are becoming more and more essential for every day wear, we just continue to commit to making as many as we can,” said executive director Kristi Zboncak.

Each artisan is now working from home and the goal is to create about 700 masks a week, according to Zboncak.

“At home they are happy that they do have something to do because for a lot of them, this is a big part of their income,” said Zboncak.

Private donations are funding the project.  The masks are donated to organizations across the Chicago area, such as retirement communities and facilities that work with children.

Karen Jellema, director of human resources for Smith Senior Living, said she was able to secure 400 masks for Smith Village employees to wear as they continue to mitigate the advancement of COVID-19.

“As someone who is both a needle art crafter and a child of immigrants, I truly appreciate the mission of the Re:new Project,” Jellema said.  “The skills the women possess not only fill an incredible need, but also make our world more beautiful in the process.”

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