July 7, 2020
Volunteer Spirit Makes a Critical Difference in the Fight Against COVID-19

When Shelly Wong first learned about the dangerous shortages of protective masks and face shields for health care workers treating COVID-19, the Alameda-based entrepreneur and a member of the Leadership group of the Sister District Project East Bay swung into action.

After talking with a friend who is an ER doctor at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, Wong quickly assembled a team to build as much protective gear as possible.

The same spirit of activism that has built Sister District in the Bay Area powered Wong’s group that has taken the name It Takes A Village. The name fits the community Wong has brought together—one based in activism, connections, and long-term relationships and friendships. Shelly and her husband, Alex Chan, initially formed the project, but quickly partnered with Bryan Walker and his wife, Michelle Walker, co-founders of Bryn Walker, a Berkeley clothing company; they were joined by co-founders Julia Chin and Eva Camp. From that core team, the group has grown to over 200 volunteers from across the Bay Area as well as local businesses that share resources and expertise to support making and donating fabric face masks and face shields for hospital workers across the Bay Area. Joan Lasselle, a member of Sister District Project San Francisco joins Shelly in heading up the donations to the Bay Area Community.

It Takes A Village is A grassroots, volunteer group funded exclusively through community donations.

Volunteers from across four Bay area counties: Alameda, Contra Costa, San Francisco, and Santa Clara counties cut, sew, wash, iron, sort, and deliver cloth masks and supplies. In barely three months the group has donated over 22,000 face masks and over 5,000 face shields to SF, East Bay and Santa Clara hospitals and healthcare systems, including San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center, UCSF, Laguna Honda Hospital, and Chinese Hospital in San Francisco, Highland Hospital in Oakland, Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley and the Palo Alto Veterans Administration Medical Center. While hospitals and healthcare workers are the group’s primary focus, donations have also been made to area agencies to help communities in need. It Takes A Village has also responded to emergencies sending face masks to hospitals in New York City and to the Navajo Nation.

Shelly initially wanted to make 1000 face masks.

But the need has grown, and the commitment of her volunteers has stayed solid. The goal is now 50,000 masks and 50,000 face shields. The focus will stay on Bay Area health care providers, but It Takes a Village is expanding to support community clinics as well as major hospitals. Already they have supported Mission Neighborhood Health Clinics in SF’s Mission Neighborhood, one of the hardest hit areas of the City. And as the success of the group has become recognized, they are becoming a go-to organization for groups that want to make donations, but don’t have relationships with the hospitals. In addition to the masks and shields. It Takes A Village has delivered 325 protective overalls, 500 surgical gloves, 21,000 latex gloves, and 115 gallons of hand sanitizer—all donated from the Bay Area community.

What started as a family project before shelter in place has grown into a grassroots community that combines multiple generations and joins businesses with individuals to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. According to Wong, “. . .people want to do something. . . they want to help” It’s clear we’re all in this together and It Takes A Village to pull us through.

It Takes A Village set up a GoFundMe to help offset costs associated with the mask and face shield production. Donations are tax deductible through the fiscal agent TMC Community Capital, an Oakland based micro-loan provider.