While St. Stephens High School teacher Molly Rice was staying home amid the COVID-19 pandemic, she heard from a former student. As a teacher, Rice has been vocal about the pandemic and encouraging others to wear a mask to keep everyone safe. The student turned to Rice in search of a mask.
The former student couldn’t find a mask to wear and resorted to sticking her nose under the collar of her shirt when she went into stores, Rice said.
Rice ended up shipping a mask to her former student, but the need for accessible masks became more and more apparent, she said.
“I started thinking who else out there could be in her position,” Rice said. “I just continued thinking about it and I thought, ‘What if there was a way to provide free masks to citizens?’”
So Rice started Ask for a Mask, an organization filling requests for reusable masks. All you have to do is ask for one. Rice hopes to get more people wearing masks to limit the spread of the coronavirus. She’s been strictly social distancing and wearing a mask whenever she is out because she had a COVID-19 scare herself.
In early March, before anyone had tested positive in Catawba County, Rice was tested for the coronavirus and had to isolate from her family. Her test came back negative, but Rice is taking the virus seriously.
She wants to encourage others to do the same. “If we can just change some of the ideas and stigmas of social distancing and mask wearing and washing hands,” Rice said.
By providing free masks, Rice hopes to make it easy for people to follow those guidelines.
Anyone in need of a mask can reach out on the Ask for a Mask — Catawba County, NC Facebook Page and Rice will make sure a mask is available.
Rice is working with the Hickory Women’s Resource Center as a pick-up location for the masks. The Love is a Verb organization is accepting monetary donations on behalf of Ask for a Mask.
Anyone interested in sewing or donating masks can reach out or drop them off at the resource center, Rice said. Ask for a Mask is getting some masks from Sew Masks Unifour, a group in Catawba County that has made and handed out more than 3,600 masks in the four-county area, Rice said.
Rice said she might start passing out masks at events or stores to encourage people to wear masks.