Mori Gardens is offering a special tree just for COVID-19 — a tree of masks, for those who want one as they are entering the garden centre, or who just want to stop by to pick one up.
It’s one of the mask trees created by a local group launched in March, and organized by Fran Boot, Julia Buxton-Cox and Lorna Penman.
With a group of volunteers, they have designed, sewed and distributed more than 4,500 masks, originally making them for frontline workers, and also delivering 150 masks to migrant workers when they go into town.
They have since turned their attention to the growing need in the community, as more and more residents decide to wear masks in public.
In preparation for the long weekend, they took one to Mori Gardens to place beside its front door for customers entering the garden centre, and another four remain scattered around town. About 1,200 have already been sold through the tree project, with 23 volunteers still working at keeping them stocked.
“I’m wearing a mask when I go out in public,” says Buxton-Cox, “because I know I could be asymptomatic, and infecting others. I do it to protect other people.”
The messaging has changed since the beginning of the pandemic, but now masks are clearly recommended not to protect ourselves, but to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, says Buxton-Cox.
“We should be wearing a mask as an act of kindness to others in the community.”
To her, it seems selfish not to — there are situations where someone passes you in a store going the wrong way, and you can’t always keep the recommended two-metre distance.
“Or what if you sneeze or cough at the cash register. Even if the cashier is behind plexiglass, there is a small opening.”
Wearing a mask, she says, “is the right thing to do. You may be uncomfortable for a short time, but how uncomfortable do you think someone’s going to be on a ventilator?”
Wearing a mask is a “mild discomfort,” she adds, that we can put up with for the sake of the community, “especially in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Nothing in this lockdown has been easy, so why take the easy road now?”
The science says wearing a mask can stop the spread of the virus, she adds, “and the faster we do that, the faster we get back to normal.”
The group is asking for a donation of $10 to $20 to go to Niagara homeless shelters and to the Community Care food bank, and has raised $12,000. But the news got even better when the volunteers learned about United Way Niagara’s COVID-19 emergency response fund, with a $100,000 matching gift from the Humeniuk Foundation. The United Way is distributing food and other supplies to agencies helping those in need in the community.
The local mask project is donating $3,000 to the Southridge Shelter in St. Catharines, which provides essential services such as food and shelter to people in need; $2,000 to The Raft in St. Catharines, which helps youth throughout the Niagara Region with shelter, support services and programs; and $2,000 Night Light Youth Services, a Niagara Falls shelter for homeless youth. It is also giving $5,000 to Community Care in St. Catharines, which is experiencing an increased demand for food during the pandemic.
And the Humeniuk Foundation will match that with a $12,000 donation, says Buxton-Cox.
To those who have purchased masks, volunteer Fran Boot says “thank you so much for being a part of giving back to your community. With the support of your time and talents we hope to continue our mask distribution program, which has been a success in so many ways.”
Through the four programs they are supporting, the mask project is helping those who are suffering the most, says Boot.
The mask tree at Mori’s, she says, gives the project even greater exposure to the community.
In addition to Mori Gardens, there are mask trees at 2252 Four Mile Creek Rd., 387 Simcoe St., 607 Simcoe St., and 43 Colonel Butler Dr.