ST. GEORGE — All of Utah’s institutions of higher education are coming together to support “ProjectProtect,” a grassroots initiative that has a goal to produce 5 million medical-grade masks to address the national shortage of personal protective equipment.
The collaborative effort between University of Utah Health, Intermountain Healthcare, Latter-day Saint Charities, several Utah nonprofits and tens of thousands of volunteer sewers across the state has already produced over 3 million masks to protect frontline health care workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, universities, colleges and technical colleges are rallying together to take the project across the finish line. They are launching a “Sew Your True Colors” campaign, asking their campus communities to sew masks using thread in the color of their institution. When front-line caregivers use these masks, they will know that Utah’s higher education community supports them.
Kelle Stephens, president of Dixie Technical College, is calling on faculty, staff, students, alumni, employers and friends of Dixie Tech to join the effort.
“The sooner we have an adequate supply of masks the sooner we’ll all be able to get back to school and work and normal,” Stephens said in a press release. “Please jump into this effort with the great gusto that Dixie Tech is known for!”
Volunteers in Southern Utah can sign up starting today at ProjectProtect.health and then pick up their kits of 100 masks at one of six donation sites spanning from Harrisville to St. George. The kits contain all of the materials needed except for the thread. Sewing volunteers are encouraged, but not required, to use their school color and sew the school spirit into the mask. Masks will be returned on May 30 at the same location as pickup.
School mascots will be at the different drop-off sites this Saturday to encourage volunteers to register again and “Sew Your True Colors.”
“Trailblazer Nation has always been a great place to live, and our community’s response of coming together and supporting one another in light of the COVID-19 pandemic has proven truly how strong, caring and resilient the residents of Southern Utah are,” Richard B. Williams, president of Dixie State University, said in the press release.
“Using red thread to sew face masks for the front-line workers who are sacrificing so much to keep our entire community safe is not only a helpful way to give back but also a great opportunity to show off our Trailblazer pride throughout the entire community,” Williams said.
Volunteers will need a sewing machine, thread, scissors and pins, but they do not need a high level of sewing skills to produce these masks. Detailed instructions will be provided. Each kit will include 100 masks, and, depending on the sewer’s level of experience, each mask should take five to 10 minutes to sew, for a total of 10 to 15 hours of sewing time over 11 days.
“Southern Utah University is proud to stand with our higher education partners as we all do our part to help Utah recover,” SUU President Scott L Wyatt said in the release. “I encourage our SUU family to show school pride while also helping our neighbors in need.”
Many volunteers have engaged their entire family to pin, cut and sew. Others have divided the 100 masks between neighbors, families and friends.
“I am overjoyed to see all higher education institutions in Utah coming together to support our medical workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, including some of our very own alumni, in this time of great need,” Harris H. Simmons, chair of the USHE Board of Regents, said in the press release. “By working together, we can reach the goal of producing 5 million medical-grade pieces of PPE through this meaningful effort.”