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Making Masks for Our Community

Written by Omar M. Khan, M.D., Q.I.D.P.


COVID-19, a virus that has affected the world, has, of course, affected us at The Douglas Center as well.  While many of us continue to stay home and follow the guidelines to help flatten the curve, there are those who are on the frontlines or are essential workers in various capacities. Many have stepped up to contribute where possible and The Douglas Center has found itself in a unique position to do the same.

The Douglas Center has also closed temporarily for our participants as part of a state mandate, but many of our Direct Support Professionals have been redirected as essential workers to now work by choice with our participants in their Community Group homes (CILAs) Our program was established 21 years ago to provide essential services and care for those in need, and during this time we are finding ourselves continuing that mission in a new realm.

As discussions grew in the last several weeks around preventative measures, The Douglas Center began reflecting on how we could contribute to our communities. Our program has a unique trait that seems to have become vital at this time, our sewing department. As many who are familiar with our program may know that we have various sewing contracts that our participants have an opportunity to work on. A few of our staff began early talks about utilizing what we have to ease some of the community burdens and it began with the thought of producing face masks. Discussions were had internally and externally with various professionals in healthcare and involved in public health planning. We began to source material and research what would provide for best practices. As the Centers for Disease Control Prevention recommendations began to expand and state guidelines became public, Rifath Khan said, “we can’t let this need go unanswered.”

So we began.  Over a week ago now, we began production of multi-layered fabric masks with elastic earloops per CDC & WHO recommendations.  These masks are meant to be washable & reusable and come in various colors and patterns.  In order to continue these operations yet still maintain current safety guidelines, we have provided many of our contract sewers & staff with the material needed to be able to sew from home and have minimal staff that come and sew in-house, but maintain distances greater than 6 feet as well as wear masks themselves.

Not only has production begun but we have already distributed hundreds of masks to local residents, public health departments, local village employees, school district employees, group home staff that are local and statewide and have many more orders ongoing.  We expect to produce and distribute in the thousands.  We would like to thank Clark from The Coleman Foundation who provided for a very generous donation which assisted in initial costs as well as our staff and community partners who are working together through this process. 

Through this mission we have been able to provide for our communities during these difficult times, have been able to continue paying employees and hope to help overall in a fight against COVID-19.

It is important to recognize that these are not a replacement for N-95 and surgical masks and may provide as a deterrent from touching your face and provide for minimal protection if there is no other mask available. The mask can be an effective complement to handwashing, social-distancing and other mitigation measures and not meant as a substitute for any guidelines.  We ask that you continue to abide by current guidelines provided by your city, state, WHO & CDC.

To order masks or if you are interested in assisting in this project financially, please contact Omar at omar@thedouglascenter.org

For more information on the coronavirus and face masks please visit:




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