The pandemic has awoken an outpouring of community support across Milpitas.
A group of determined women have formed the Love Mask Brigade; they’ve been making and distributing masks all over the city.
This effort started way back, even before shelter-in-place. It was at the beginning of March when 15-year-old Joss Elena Pascua Bandong began making masks for friends and relatives. As she watched the news and saw what was happening in the world, she started feeling called to help first responders, seniors, and other people in need.
That’s when Evelyn Chua got involved. Chua, a community leader who has been very active across multiple causes and commissions in Milpitas, was brought in to help put the mask distribution plan into action.
Chua enlisted others to join the cause; women who are already deeply involved in the community, like Carmen Montano, a Milpitas City Councilmember. There’s also Helen Qiu, of the Rainbow Childhood Development Center. And then there’s Mila Garcia, and her daughter Miko; Mila does the cutting, while Miko sews.
Chua, who says she’s not a sewer, is in charge of logistics. She does all the mask pick-ups, and drops them off to where they need to go.
Hundreds of masks have been delivered to places like the Milpitas Police Department, the Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County, medical facilities, and offices; they even deliver to individuals who need them in the community. And they do all of this free of charge.
Qiu has sewn a few hundred masks so far. Before she started making masks, she had never sewn anything in her life. Though this was a first for her, she was driven to contribute somehow. She watched YouTube videos and practiced. Then on April 1, she became the proud owner of her first-ever sewing machine.
“I’ve sewed 300 masks. In the beginning, everyone talked about the masks, and how they’re short everywhere. At that time, I didn’t know what I could do,” said Qiu. “I knew I could help. I watched the news and sometimes it just makes you feel so panicked and scared. So I just ignored it all, and started making the masks.”
Chua mentioned that she has also begun making mask drop-offs to caregivers.
“We’re starting to go to caregivers because somehow, I found out, they have a hard time getting masks,” said Chua.
She has also received a donation of 3,000 surgical masks and 500 pairs of gloves from the Milpitas Chinese American Community (MCAC), and recently donated some of them to three Mobile home parks: Mobilodge, Friendly Village, and Pioneer; she even dropped some off for certified nursing assistants through the Nurse Builders Academy.
Providing Meals to First Responders
While Chua is making deliveries around town, she has also been doing what she can to bring food to first responders. Women from St. Elizabeth Church reached out to her, with the idea of cooking a couple dishes for Milpitas’ firefighters and police. So Chua got the ball rolling, and they delivered a Filipino lunch to first responders a few weeks ago. She wants to keep the movement, called “Share a Dish, Cheer our Responders,” going, and is encouraging others in the community to join in.
A “Sponsor a Meal, Save a Business” movement has also branched off of the initial one. It also involves treating first responders, but includes purchasing food at a local restaurant to help their sales during this time. The Green Thumb Garden Club in Milpitas, which recently donated $500 to the Milpitas Food Pantry, sponsored a meal, treating first responders from Milpitas’ Fire and Police to Las Vegas Taqueria.
“My goal is to treat our first responders for the month of May at least once a week,” said Chua.
Saint John the Baptist Ladies Guild has also gotten involved; its members are thrilled to be doing something that supports first responders in the community.
“This is a wonderful opportunity for Saint John the Baptist Ladies Guild to sponsor a meal for our first responders at the Milpitas Police Department and Milpitas Fire Department to show our gratitude for their essential roles for public safety…and to also lift them up during this uncertain time,” said MariCris Benitez, who is the President of the Ladies Guild.
Others, like Seafood City, The Joy of Sharing NorCal, and entrepreneur Marisa Yap have also pledged their support and will be sponsoring upcoming meals in the weeks ahead.