Houston non-profit Connect Community launches Sewn Goods Collaborative during COVID-19 crisis

Apr 21, 2020

Today, Connect Community, a local non-profit organization, launched the Sewn Goods Collaborative to protect our public workers, local businesses, and residents during the COVID-19 crisis. This collaborative was launched in tandem with Houston Community College, Houston Furniture Bank, and several small-batch manufacturers, non-profits and local sewists to create a partnership to better serve the Greater Houston community.

Connect Community is a non-profit based in the Gulfton/Sharpstown community that works predominantly with the resident immigrant and refugee population. When COVID-19 hit and the request for face masks increased, Connect Community saw an opportunity to mobilize the talents of local sewists to sell masks to the public.

“Vulnerable communities like Gulfton are often the hardest hit during a crisis, but we know they also have a lot to offer in overcoming this crisis,” said Anne Whitlock, Founding Director of Connect Community. “We are leveraging the tailoring and seamstress skills they acquired in their home countries to sew and sell cloth face masks, allowing Gulfton residents to earn some extra income while also helping protect all of Houston.”

Houston Community College joins the Connect Community Sewn Goods partnership to assist in the production of face masks. HCC plans to utilize equipment at their West Houston Institute IDEAStudio and their Advanced Manufacturing Center in Stafford to cut fabric based on the identified pattern. Additionally, HCC is recruiting volunteers through its HCC Fashion department, AARP students, as well as through its newly established H-Force Crisis Collaborative, which seeks to bring organizations and people together to address personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages across the Houston area amidst the COVID-19 crisis.

“We created H-Force to partner with organizations like Connect Community and the other Sewn Goods partners so we could make a real difference for our communities,” said Dr. Kurt Ewen, HCC’s Vice Chancellor, Strategy, Planning & Institutional Effectiveness. “Boosting the production of these sewn face masks is crucial and we are honored to support the effort and do our part to help stop the spread.”

Houston Furniture Bank has a long history of leveraging community partnerships and finding resilient solutions to unprecedented challenges. Just as they responded to Hurricane Harvey, providing furniture assistance to over 3,500 families, Houston Furniture Bank has pivoted quickly to respond to COVID-19. Not only is Houston Furniture Bank making masks at its 8220 Mosley Road facility, but they are also activating their industry partners to donate fabric, and working to connect their partner social service agencies with the masks they need to protect their staff.

“These difficult times demand action," said Oli Mohammed, Executive Director. "We are proud to be doing our part to protect the workers who are on the front lines of this crisis."

In addition to selling face masks to the general public, the Sewn Goods Collaborative is also donating masks through its matching program. Purchases of up to 50 masks are matched with mask donations that will go directly to healthcare institutions and public-facing organizations. As of today, over 8,000 masks have been produced and distributed through the partnership with the goal of distributing 40,000 masks to the Houston community. This work is only possible because of the collaborative efforts of all partners.

Additional partners include:

Funders include:

To learn more or purchase a mask, visit www.myconnectcommunity.org/pf/sewn-goods/

About Connect Community:

Connect Community is a collaboration of best-in-class organizations that builds healthy neighborhoods in Sharpstown/Gulfton by partnering with residents to advance their educational, economic, physical, and spiritual wellbeing and improve outcomes for every person, every step of the way.

About Houston Community College:

Houston Community College (HCC) is composed of 14 Centers of Excellence and numerous satellite centers that serve the diverse communities in the Greater Houston area by preparing individuals to live and work in an increasingly international and technological society. HCC is one of the country’s largest singly accredited, open-admission community colleges offering associate degrees, certificates, workforce training and lifelong learning opportunities.

About Houston Furniture Bank:

Houston Furniture Bank is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to Making Empty Houses Homes. First established in 1992, Houston Furniture Bank has provided furniture assistance to thousands families and individuals in the greater Houston region. For more information about Houston Furniture Bank visit houstonfurniturebank.org. or call 713-842-9771.

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