Denver leaders use local church to make homemade masks, provide work for unemployed

Posted at 4:44 PM, Apr 03, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-03 22:47:10-04

DENVER -- A team of workers in Denver's Highlands neighborhood has transformed an otherwise empty local church into an assembly line where they are making homemade masks for front line workers.

"We've had requests from bus drivers, public works workers, food service workers, grocery clerks," said Denver City Councilwoman At-Large Debbie Ortega.

Ortega, along with a host of volunteers, came up with the idea for the Colorado Sewing Collaborative. They are using donated space from Highland United Methodist Church to make the cloth masks.

"We have donated sewing machines, loaned sewing machines," she said.

Mile High Behavioral Health and the Denver Public Library loaned the sewing machines. Arc Thrift and Davis Tent both donated the material being used.

"Connections with partnerships really made this come together in a week," said Ortega. "Everybody's trying to make these masks, and what makes these masks different is this extra filter that we are putting in them."

Ortega said the pattern for the masks was designed by a nurse and is meant to provide added protection for those who must encounter the public as a part of their job.

"We try not to have more than 10 people at a time in the room," said Slavica Park, who is serving as the project manager.

Park said they are making about 60 masks a day and hope to ramp it up to possibly 150 or more a day.

The group is also providing work for those who have recently become unemployed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"[We're] helping folks who do not have access to masks to actually have them, but then at the same time, helping the unemployed folks who are hit by this situation," said Park.

They are helping people like Marysola Menendez, who recently lost her catering job because of the outbreak.

"They canceled my events and I was like … I was counting on that money," said Menendez.

Menendez is now one of the 20 people they've been able to pay $15 an hour to put their old skills to new use.

"All my memories came back because I learned how to sew when I was very little," said Menendez. "Make money to pay my bills."

"We received a generous donation. We are also fundraising and writing some grants through the COVID-19 relief fund," said Park.

Those who would like to request a group order for masks can do so here. The group is not yet taking individual orders.

People who are interested in volunteer or working to sew the masks are asked to fill out this form.

Colorado Sewing Collaborative still needs donations, and especially elastic.

To donate reach out to: or you can send them to Highland UMC/Masks 3131 Osceola, Denver, CO 80212.