Purple Room Facebook
While the Purple Room is again open for takeout meals, the restaurant closed for a couple of weeks to be used as a space for C.V. Mask Project volunteers to cut fabric into patterns for several thousand gowns. Credit: Purple Room Facebook

The worst of times can bring out the best in people—and all over the Coachella Valley, folks are coming together (virtually, mostly) to aid health-care workers and first responders in need of personal protective equipment (PPE). These are just a few of the ongoing efforts under way to help protect our protectors.

C.V. Mask Project

When entertainer and philanthropist Lucie Arnaz got wind of the valley-wide need for personal protective equipment, she reached out to her idled entertainment industry pals, who set up a command center at The Five Hundred building in Palm Springs. Crafty costumers put their skills and ingenuity into play to source the fluid-resistant material needed to make isolation gowns. Enter Lowe’s, The Home Depot and others with donations of landscape weed barrier (talk about a “grassroots” approach!) and upholstery-lining fabric.

That got the pipeline flowing.

“We are fortunate that we have a community that comes together when the need is there,” Arnaz said. “What started as a small network of people who were willing to step up is now growing quickly, as everyone wants to help. In a very short period of time, we have brought together the creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of community leaders and people of incredible talent and passion.”

The head honcho at The Five Hundred building, John Monahan, helps coordinate the cutting, packing, pickup, delivery and administration of this volunteer assembly-line operation. Sewers pick up gown components and return the completed articles. Transport folks whisk the precious cargo off to medical staff on the front lines.

Even if you can’t sew, you can find out how to volunteer or make a donation through the website: www.cvmaskproject.com.

Coachella Valley Mask Makers

Shelley Blume, Judi Britt and Kay Gerhardt have recruited well more than 1,000 volunteers who are, in turn, recruiting more helpers in dozens of individual communities and neighborhoods to fashion no-sew masks from common items like shop towels. Makers get kits to make 25 masks at a time; materials and instructions are included. All you need is a glue gun! Pickup and delivery is coordinated by captains in each community. Check the website to see if there’s a group in your neighborhood, or find out how to start your own: www.cvmaskmakers.com.

In less than a month, the group has created a partnership with Eisenhower Health Foundation to accept donations at www.eisenhowerhealth.org/covidfund; received in-kind donations from the Indian Wells Golf Resort, Ace Hardware, Staples, Decorators Depot and others; and fielded requests to share their game plan with groups in two-dozen states and several countries around the world.


Meanwhile, other groups have found their own ways to get involved. Eisenhower Medical Center Auxiliary members were sidelined when COVID-19 restrictions prevented them from volunteering at the hospital—so they commandeered bolts of fabric normally used to make volunteer-services smocks and got to work making face masks. They’ve made a commitment to provide each of the 4,000 Eisenhower Health staff members with two masks.

“We are not in the mask business, so we are definitely learning as we go along,” said Aadila Sabat-St. Clair, one of the volunteer project coordinators. “What’s been wonderful to see is how volunteers, many of whom do not know each other, have collaborated over email on making the perfect mask and have offered advice as needed. It is rather fitting that during the month of April, we celebrated volunteers nationally. The efforts of the volunteers reflect, once again, how incredible all volunteers everywhere are.”

When the 25-member Vietnamese Choir at St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in La Quinta was forced to stop singing together, they decided to turn their energies toward sewing together. Even though some of the choir members had never used a sewing machine, one of their own, Jade Nguyen, said they found a helpful YouTube video.

“We coached each other through the steps to make face masks,” Ngyuen said.

The singers each work up to 11 hours a day with cotton material they’ve purchased or found, to honor their commitment to make 10,000 masks. They are well on their way and have so far donated more than 2,000 to local hospitals and front-line healthcare workers all over the valley.

Several thousand medical and non-medical volunteers have signed up with the Riverside County Coronavirus (COVID-19) Workforce to answer the call for all types of manpower assistance at sites throughout the county. The volunteer workforce is filling in as drivers, custodians, office staff, food service workers and security guards. Go to rc-hr.com/volunteer-workforce if you can join in.