Coronavirus News: New Jersey mom organizes grassroots effort to make masks for frontline workers

SPARTA, New Jersey (WABC) -- One mom from New Jersey is stepping up during the coronavirus pandemic, organizing a grassroots effort to provide quality masks for those on the front lines of the crisis.

JoAnn Gregoli, of Sparta, is an event planner by trade. And now, she's a super mom.

"I have reached out to 50 moms and moms' groups and sewing clubs to be able to make masks for the healthcare workers on the front lines," she said.

Her group connected on Facebook from various locations, 50 women -- most of whom have never met -- sewing around the clock, making thousands of masks that are either equal to or better than N95s.

"What started this whole thing is I have two children on the front lines," she said. "One is a physician assistant, and one is a detective. And they alerted me there was a need for masks in some of their areas."

Gregoli has now supplied masks to 15 hospitals and nursing homes in New Jersey and five hospitals in New York. And part of her family traces its roots back to a famous helper, Rosie the Riveter.

"My son-in-law is the grandson of the original Rosie the Riveter from Norman Rockwell," she said. "They were neighbors in Vermont. So when Norman Rockwell actually painted that picture, it was his grandmother who was the model."

She is so fiercely proud of how women from Sparta to Madison have rolled up their sleeves.

"We produced over 5,000, just moms sewing from home with their kids," she said. "It's crazy that they even have the time to do that while they're trying to teach school to their kids simultaneously. It's nuts.

She says that without being asked, companies have sent candies and chapsticks for her to give medical staff, as well as materials to make the masks.

"Home Depot sent me well over 50 boxes of supplies, which were all fabric and elastic, crazy, arrived at my home," she said. "So people don't even know who's stepped up to the plate."

And she hopes the efforts will help alleviate a critical shortage in the fight against the virus.

"We are the Rosie the Riveters of our generation," she said. "Trying to make a difference, one mask at a time, a grassroots effort."

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