One Thousand Masks

SBCC Community
4 min readFeb 24, 2021

In May of 2020 SBCC launched the “Give Your Gift” program. SBCC developed this initiative in response to the number of community residents who expressed a desire to give back to their community after receiving support from SBCC.

In spite of the many challenges folks faced, they wanted to make a contribution to insure that the values of fellowship and shared sacrifice would survive the panic and insecurity that many families and communities confronted through the loss of employment, food insecurity, and uncertainty about reliable housing.

Since March, SBCC and our countywide network of resident led Neighborhood Action Councils (NAC’s) have initiated a number strategies to continue to support families and communities. SBCC has multiple food distribution events on a weekly basis. We deliver essential hygiene products along with diapers, clothing, and gift cards to folks who need help. SBCC staff signs people up for testing and often supplies transportation. SBCC and our resident partners have a network that operates from the Antelope Valley to Long Beach. SBCC is engaged with community members ensuring that they have a partner who will advocate for them and mobilize resources.

During the Martin Luther King Day of Service and in partnership with the Biden Inauguration Committee, SBCC delivered a workshop on mask making. People from all over the country participated, in the workshop and learned how to sew protective masks. For many families masks are a luxury they cannot afford. So teaching folks to make them and demonstrating how inexpensive it is to “do it yourself” is important.

As a result of SBCC’s workshop, SBCC and our Neighborhood Action Councils have launched the 1,000 Mask Project. This LA countywide project initiated and driven by SBCC’s resident partners is designed to sew and distribute 1,000 masks to local residents with an emphasis on low income folks and folks with multiple risk factors including the homeless population.

The SBCC 1,000 Mask Project is a persuasive example of the power of networks to mobilize and drive meaningful civic engagement. Every person (and sometimes every family) will contribute to this project. Some folks will cut out the cloth for the mask, some folks will sew them and others will distribute them across the county. And some folks are using this opportunity to learn how to sew. SBCC has also identified new partners with populations who need masks too and so we are building new collaborations as well.

SBCC’s network of resident groups are using their gifts and talents to “Give Their Gift”. This model of grassroots mobilization is highly effective for community problem solving. Folks did not have to create a survey, establish a committee, and compose a detailed analysis or a white paper on the need for protective masks. SBCC did not have to set up a fiscal committee to determine where money for supplies would come from. Residents were already aware of the need through their networks of relationships.

The problem solving and decision making reflected knowledge of our communities and common sense. Every participant owned this project and felt responsible for our success. The 1,000 Mask Project emerged from an organic and authentic understanding of how to approach challenges when folks have very little money and have learned from experience how to transform quarters into dollar bills. This model of community problem solving is anchored in a mutual trust, a sense of efficacy and a fearless confidence that “together we will get the job done no matter what.”

And we have. Cloth is being cut, masks are being sewed, and a distribution system is established and operational. 1,000 masks will be distributed to individuals and families in the next few weeks. And of course by that time another project will be identified using community wisdom as our research strategy. The call to action will be issued to our network, the analysis will began, a solution will be agreed to and the grassroots mobilization to engage every NAC member will proceed. And the mobilized network will act together.

This process of community engagement and its effectiveness is the result committed, connected, fearless folks who are accustomed to confronting difficult situations and figuring out how to prevail.

Every day, I receive emails from experts and consultants offering trainings and seminars on resiliency, leadership development, effective communication skills, and executive decision making strategies. I have yet to discover a training that captures the essence of the organic and informal networks that aligned and organized the 1,000 Mask Project. There is an infectious vibrant power that moves through the community as folks talk, connect, debate, disagree and then agree on a solution to the problem they have identified.

The challenges, pain, loss and uncertainty that COVID19 has injected into everyone’s life have also called out the noblest, characteristics of the human spirit. These are the folks who refuse to give up, refuse to be petty and selfish, who still remember how to laugh and sing who believe in the power of community to defend and heal us.

I am privileged to be a part of the movement that created the 1,000 Mask Project. I know an entire network of folks who “Give Their Gifts” unconditionally with no expectation of recognition except the satisfaction of contributing to the well- being of their family, friends and neighbors.

Do you have a Gift to Give?



SBCC Community

Empowering communities across Los Angeles County to discover and develop tools through active individual and collective well-being.