When Kiran Saluja blew the dust off her sewing machine in order to do her part to help with the COVID-19 pandemic, she had no idea that months later she would be leading a group that had given away 10,000 handmade masks.
Saluja, who lives in Surrey, B.C., and has not been working during the pandemic, decided in March to start making cloth masks so medical grade ones could be saved for health-care workers.
"I just saw there was a need," she said.
She knew how to sew, but says she hadn't touched her machine "for years."
Still, she searched out a mask design through videos online and began making them with cotton material she bought with her own money.
'Don't want to stop'
She then began recruiting other women around the region to make masks from home, many of them seniors who, she says, love being able to have something to do while staying home as part of the health guidelines.
"They are busy, they just love doing this, they just don't want to stop," she said about the group, which now has 20 members, made up of seniors and women who have day jobs.
"I love doing this this as well, it's part of a daily routine now."
Saluja works up to three hours a day to make masks. She also picks up the masks others have made and delivers them to hospitals, temples, churches, senior care homes, doctor's offices and schools where they are donated.
For the past two months the groups has also received donations from local companies to cover the cost of materials.
Early Canada Day celebration
On Sunday, Saluja hosted some of the sewing group, which is called the Sewing Army, in her backyard for an early Canada Day celebration, while being mindful of physical distancing.
It was the first time the group had met in person since beginning to make masks in March.
"They haven't been going out, so it was kind of nice for them to get out," she said. "The seniors especially."
She said the group was recognized with certificates from her local MLA, Harry Bains.
Saluja said she plans to make a $500 donation along with 200 masks to a new food bank opening in the area with extra donations she has received.
The group is one of several around the province making masks to help people stay safe from COVID-19.