Future’s “Mask On” program has been doing wonders for essential workers in Atlanta and beyond. Since launching the initiative last month through his FreeWishes Foundation and in partnership with Atlanta Sewing Style, the charitable program has provided over 100,000 first responders and essential workers with protective face masks amidst the pandemic.
Speaking with Complex, FreeWishes Communications and Brand Strategist Abesi Manyando explained how the “Mask On” initiative first started.
“We started seeing stories about doctors saying they had to reuse their masks, and then some were getting infected because they didn’t have the proper equipment. That was alarming to us,” Manyando told the outlet. “At first, we were thinking, could we order masks from somewhere? But there were absolutely no masks available—not the specific ones that the healthcare workers needed.”
Atlanta Sewing Style’s team of 500 volunteers have been sewing protective masks that have been sent out to hospitals, relief centers and other facilities in Atlanta, New York and California. When they first began, Future’s sister and FreeWishes co-founder Tia Wilburn-Anderson recalls being inundated with requests from healthcare centers that didn’t have enough masks.
“I mean, we get overflowed with emails saying, ‘Hey, we are working every day on the front lines and we don’t have materials to protect us. We don’t have masks,’” Wilburn-Anderson told Complex.
“Everything moves so fast,” Manyando added. “Some orders that we have, we provided 5,000 masks and then 3,000 here, another 500 there. We’ve certainly reached hundreds of thousands of people.”
As the program grew, FreeWishes has also joined forces with Project HOPE, a medical relief organization with a team of over 4,000 doctors that serve marginalized communities.
“A lot of people don’t have health insurance, and as you see, there’s a lot of cases and deaths in Latino and African American communities because of the disparities and lack of access,” Manyando said. “These doctors have been going to the rural communities, driving themselves. They’ve been testing people over the last month and a half. They’re not Piedmont Hospital; they’re not Johns Hopkins, so they don’t have the funding and [supplies] that they need.”
T.I. and New York Knicks player Reggie Bullock have also contributed to FreeWishes’ efforts.
“We’re always working and trying to figure out a way to give back to the community whether it’s health, technology or education,” Wilburn-Anderson concluded.