Mask Maker, Mask Maker...

The Colorful Magic of the UV Mask Makers

“Mask maker, mask maker, make me a mask”, or so the song might go these days given our need to stay safe when headed out of our homes. But who are the mask maskers behind the Facebook group UV Mask Makers; the people procuring and washing fabric and elastic, cutting, sewing, assembling, and distributing masks throughout the Upper Valley and beyond? Without getting into too many names—you can visit the Facebook Group by Clicking Here and see for yourself—the group was founded at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic by Honor Hingston-Cox and Mary Beth Frings Stocken. There are 436 members of the UV Mask Makers group, though some number fewer than that are actually making masks.

At last count, the UV Mask Makers have made and distributed more than 40,000 masks to people and organizations in and around the Upper Valley region of Vermont and New Hampshire. That’s a whopping number, and the group is still making masks even though its composition keeps changing. Some of its members make a mask or two here or there, while others are churning out 100 masks per day! The group has been recognized by volunteernh.org as worthy of not one, but two Spirit of NH awards! These are Volunteer Service Awards given annually to “recognize individuals and groups who provide volunteer services that strengthen communities and improve the lives of New Hampshire residents. These awards honor outstanding volunteers – or groups of volunteers – who reflect the strong ethic of service and volunteerism in our state.” Congratulations to all UV mask Makers!

One organization that has benefitted considerably from the work of the Upper Valley Mask makers is West Central Behavioral Health. This is a local community mental health clinic with offices in Claremont, Lebanon, and Newport, NH. Faced with a shortage of masks in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic worked its way into New Hampshire, the Upper Valley Mask Makers came to the rescue. At the time of this writing, the UV Mask Makers have delivered close to 1,500 masks of all shapes, sizes, and colors to West Central Behavioral Health offices and clinics. The clinicians and clients who wear UV Mask Maker masks are incredibly grateful. As a way of showing this gratitude, they started a “Masked Marvel” campaign to showcase some of the masks they received. From the zany to the brightly-colored, think of each person wearing a mask having a big smile behind it for the UV Mask Makers who saved the day!

The primary contact for the UV Mask Makers has been Mary Ann Frings Stocken, a Hanover resident and co-founder of the UV Mask Makers. Once she learned of West Central’s need for masks, she stayed in touch to learn of the quantity and sizes needed for clinical staff and clients. Then, once a week, she would drop off a bag full of masks to be distributed to West Central’s clinics. Mary Beth was always there when we needed her, and the masks she brought have served to keep hundreds of people of all ages, from 2 - 92, COVID-free.

Think about it. A purely volunteer organization that doesn’t accept payment for its masks has made and distributed over 40,000 masks to people and organizations around a broad swath of Vermont and New Hampshire known as the Upper Valley. It’s like magic! This is a testament to the power of volunteers in the face of an emergency. People like Mary Beth who rose to a challenge they never could have predicted, yet who have put in countless hours and plenty of their own resources to make masks that protect friends, neighbors, and complete strangers who need to stay safe.

The above image is of Diane Roston, MD, West Central’s medical director giving her thumbs up of appreciation to the UV Mask Makers. And below is Bob Gonyo, West Central’s CFO, slightly doctored up, in a silly image as a mask-wearing marvel.

Of course, everyone at West Central knows that mask wearing and mask making is serious business given how masks protect them from the illness at hand. But, having fun with masks, for the makers and the wearers, is a good way to keep their outlook upbeat. And the UV Mask Makers themselves are doing the right thing by finding a hobby—sewing and creating—they like to do, indeed can do, during their quarantine period to help keep their spirits high, and then doing it! Find the activity that brings you joy, and do it as often as you can. In fact, make it part of your daily routine to help improve your mental health.

From everyone at West Central Behavioral Health, to all the dedicated volunteers who comprise the UV Mask Makers group, please accept our sincere thanks and ample appreciation for your work. You’ve made our days, weeks, and months safer and much more colorful. We hope this short piece with a few photos will make you smile. You’re work means the world to us!

Dave Celone is director of development & community relations at West Central Behavioral Health with offices in Claremont, Lebanon, and Newport, NH. His photo, and a photo gallery of many more of his West Central “Masked Marvel “colleagues, appears below. Enjoy the scroll down a Masked Marvel memory lane!