Courtesy photo: Masks for Students

In an ongoing campaign to keep Riverhead students safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, a grassroots group of parents and community members has come together for an initial donation of 2,600 masks to the Riverhead Central School District.

The masks, 80% of which are handmade, are being delivered to each principal of the district’s seven schools in late September to ensure every student’s back-to-school supplies include personal protection.

The effort is spearheaded by Diane Tucci, parent, high school PTSO co-vice president and owner of Main Street Media, a Riverhead-based marketing, production and event management firm. Tucci formed Masks for Students after speaking with teachers about their concerns, including Keri Stromski, kindergarten teacher at Aquebogue Elementary School.

“I was concerned that some children would have fancy masks and different designs and others have the plain ones, which could make children feel bad about the type of masks they had,” Stromski said. “Being able to have all of the children have a special mask with designs, made for them by community members, not only helps them feel excited about the masks, but also lets them know that people care about them and their feelings,” she said.

“This has been challenging for everyone, and to make a child feel special and loved is always a good thing.”

Courtesy photo: Masks for Students

Tucci set up a GoFundMe site with a goal of raising $5,000 or 10,000 masks. Riverhead High School PTSO President Mary Maki and Riverhead Middle School PTO President Stephanie Burns have also been instrumental in the campaign.

“Parents and teachers have enough to worry about,” said Tucci. “We want our kids to be safe and comfortable and realize this is going to be an ongoing need throughout the school year.”

The response has been “amazing,” Tucci said. “It’s incredibly heartwarming to see the support. We have some people donating money or purchasing new masks for distribution while others are buying supplies and sewing the masks themselves. As of now, more than 63 people have been involved in some way.”

Longtime resident and community activist Marilyn Winter, who helped gather donations, said, “As a mother, grandmother and neighbor, keeping the most vulnerable safe is near and dear to my heart. I felt in a small way I would help by pulling together those who have been making masks and those who would be able to donate. Our community joined together for our students and formed a committee of 63 willing hands of love.”

The recipient of the first batch of donated masks was Phillips Avenue Elementary School.

“The students at Phillips Avenue are truly grateful for the donation of masks,” principal Debra Rodgers said. “This initiative by Masks for Students is a true testament to our collective strength and influence.” Rodgers thanked the volunteers, donors, and businesses that made this donation possible.

The group is delivering masks today to Riverhead High School, Roanoke Avenue Elementary School and Aquebogue Elementary School.

Those interested in supporting Masks for Students can do so with a donation at the group’s GoFundMe site or drop off masks at Riverhead Vacuum Sewing Center at 31 East Main Street in Riverhead. Materials and supplies are also available for those willing to sew.

Source: Masks for Students press release

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