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Owners of The Island Cow now sewing protective face masks for the public

As the region is faced with a critical shortage of protective face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, two crafty local business owners and their family have been sewing their own to help fulfill the need for first responders. Now, they are offering these masks to the general public as well.

Elke and Brian Podlasek of The Island Cow on Sanibel Island, along with their two daughters, have sewn over 3,000 protective face masks for donation to the staff at Lee Health, as well as local fire and police departments and other first responders. To help fund this special initiative and bring the masks community-wide, the family is making these masks available to the general public for purchase.

“We want to do everything we can to support our health care workers and first responders with these critical supplies,” said Elke Podlasek. “Our hope is that by extending this resource to more people in our community, we will help our friends and neighbors stay safe while also being able to provide even more masks to help those who are on the front lines every day.”

The special cow-print masks are available to the public for purchase at $12.95 per mask (limit four masks per order, shipping included). All proceeds from sales will help fund the materials needed to make more free masks for first responders. Additionally, those who wish to pay it forward to first responders can also donate on The Island Cow website to help fund materials for additional masks.

The Island Cow is also fulfilling bulk orders for local businesses that are continuing to operate or reopening their businesses. Masks for bulk orders may be customized with embroidered company logos. Businesses in need of masks can call 239-848-5533 for more information.

All masks for the public will include a protective filter using Halyard H600, a two-ply spun polypropylene. The material, according to a report from the University of Florida’s health department, is “thought to be superior to the common surgical mask in its ability to block aerosols and droplets, including water, bacteria and other particles.”

The Podlasek family is also collecting funds for mask production through Kids’ Care Disaster Relief, a nonprofit founded by the Podlaseks’ 14-year-old daughter, Kristina. Kids’ Care Disaster Relief is dedicated to helping those in crises, and has helped mobilize donations and fundraisers for a variety of causes since 2018, from the California wildfires to Hurricane Dorian.

To purchase masks or to fund a mask for a first responder, visit www.SanibelIslandCow.com. For more information, call 239-848-5533.

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