'Mask Project of Tampa Bay' needs donations to keep up with thousands of mask requests

The lack of personal protective equipment for medical professionals and first responders has become a serious issue, and many have stepped up to do their part to fill that void.

Pleas have gone out across the country to donate and supply medical workers with the proper personal equipment they need during the COVID-19 pandemic. Locally, the Mask Project Tampa Bay is trying to do their part.

Danielle Sullivan, who is with the project, said her friend got the idea two weeks ago. 

"My friend just realized there was a need and she's not the type of person to sit around when there is something that needs to be done," Sullivan told FOX 13. "She started this Facebook group and it was up to 115 [followers] one day, and now 13 days later we're up to 3,200 members."

She said they didn't expect it to catch on that quickly. Now, they have over 9,225 requests from masks from nurses, emergency rooms, oncology units, dentists, and veterinarians. 

"Their requests are heartbreaking," Sullivan explained. "They're pleading with us."

Sullivan said the volunteers are not creating N95 masks. Instead, the ones they make can be used as a cover for those specific masks. 

"The feedback that we are getting is that they have this one N95 mask that they have to wear for their entire shift and, most of the time, for a week or two. What these covers allow them to do is go from patient to patient and change the cover," she explained. "They can change it throughout their shift, take it home and wash it with their scrubs and wear it to their next shift. It gives them piece of mind."

The project receives up to 2,000 requests per day since they launched, Sullivan said. They recently partnered with Sleep International Mattress Company which will donate all the supplies in order to make 500 masks per day.

She said they will be prioritizing hospitals over most other requests. 

"We anticipate it will get rough in the next couple of weeks," Sullivan said.

LINK: For those who want to volunteer or donate money, go to the Mask Project Tampa Bay Facebook page for more information.