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Canal Walk Mask Makers Donate To Elizabeth Avenue School Students And Staff

Elizabeth Avenue School vice-principal Greg Romero, Canal Walk Mask Makers Joan Klimpl, Kathy Caragher, Susan Hoffman and Art Hoffman, and EAS principal John Haney after the Canal Walk group donated face masks to the school’s students and staff.

Students and staff of Elizabeth Avenue School will have a surprise waiting for them when (if?) they return to school for in-person learning at the end of November: about 500 reusable face masks.

The masks are the gift of the Canal Walk Mask Makers, a group of residents from the active-adult community in the township who have banded together to make thousands of masks for groups near and far.

Four of the mask makers showed up at the school on September 10 to make the donation to school principal John Haney and vice principal Greg Romero.

Group member Kathy Caragher said the effort started with her making masks for her husband’s co-workers, “and it just went from there.”

Susan and Art Hoffman were also making masks, initially for their daughter and her colleagues at Robert Wood Johnson Medical Center in Somerville, and also a birthing center, Susan Hoffman said.

The couple hooked up with Caragher and Joan Klimpl to form the core of the Mask Makers.

Group members are split into “cutters” and “sewers,” and each person works independently and passes their work on, Klimpl said.

Caragher said getting people to help by donating material for the masks isn’t that difficult.

“We just put the word out in one of our emails to the community, and they just come through for us,” she said.

While they’ve made masks for organizations as diverse as nursing homes and the Nvajo Nation, Klimpl said they picked Elizabeth Avenue School because “that’s our neighborhood.”

Romero said the donation fills a need at the school.

“We have students who can’t afford to buy great masks,” he said. “This gives them an opportunity to have a great mask on the regular, wash it and use it the next day.”

Haney said the message the donation sends to students is that there are people in the community who care about them.

“It means that they know other people care about them, and that’s a really nice feeling for them,” Haney said. “They know that the community values protecting them and protecting each other, and that’s a team effort.”

“That makes it really cogent for the kids to understand that there’s a lot of support behind them, and they belong to a community that’s bigger than themselves,” he said.

Haney said the masks will be distributed when students and teachers return for the planned in-person learning at the end of November.

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