Local non-profit creates maker space, to donate masks amid COVID-19 in West Philadelphia

PHILADELPHIA -- While masks are becoming a requirement amid the COVID-19 pandemic, one local group in West Philadelphia is looking to help make a difference.

"Once we received the news about the COVID-19 numbers, we were just thinking, talking, and strategizing about how we can potentially mitigate the spread and contribute back to the community," said Melissa Lamarre, director of operations for Community Transformation Partners Inc.

Community Transformation Partners Inc. is a local non-profit that launched its MASK ON! Initiative, to produce and donate face masks to essential workers and high-risk communities.

"I called one of our friends who had a venue space and they're not holding events due to the shutdown," said Lamarre. "We move the machines in and made sure they were up and running and started recruiting volunteers."

That call led business partner Dr. Leon Caldwell, founder and board chair for Community Transformation Partners Inc., to gather his equipment and join in the fight to stopping the spread of COVID-19.

"I had some equipment that was in storage and called Mel and said 'We need to do something, what can we do?'" said Caldwell.

Creating a maker space that focuses on STEM concepts called "STEAMIE Workspace" in West Philadelphia, Caldwell says, his goal is not only to donate masks, but help create an entrepreneurial environment in the process.

"The whole steamie workspace concept is essential maker space," said Caldwell. "How do we find a place in our neighborhoods where we teach a skill or have access to skills that prepare people for jobs for the future."

Those examples, Caldwell says, are jobs in advance manufacturing, welding, and things he believes that have gaps of talent.

While engagement begins to grow from community members and volunteers, Lamarre said, "Our ultimate goal is to help flatten the curve, help curb the spread of the virus and as many people that have a mask and aren't wearing them regularly, we are a step closer to the other side of things."

The office of Councilwoman Jamie Gauthier will be one of the mask distribution hubs in West Philadelphia. Some of the other city partners include: Councilwoman Jamie Gauthier (3rd District), Councilman Derek Green (At - large), African American Chamber of Commerce, and Philadelphia Department of Health.

For new volunteers interested in joining this initiative can sign-up here.