Masks and COVID-19: Analog Help from a Digital Firm

Ed Wenck | May 04, 2020

When Pamela Cortes of the Houston integration firm Echo Workshop learned that her dear friend Becky had turned her quilting bees into de facto mask factories, Cortes knew she could help in myriad ways.

“My husband started this business 21 years ago. Over the years, I’ve come to wear many hats: accounting, payroll, HR, marketing,” she explains. But Cortes’ first love is customer service, a job she had for 20 years with a major airline – and a skill that would eventually help generate donations of fabric.

The Masks

Becky -- a generous soul who’s even fashioned a custom quilt for Cortes’ daughter out of the youngster’s track and field competition t-shirts – participates no less than three quilting bees. All three began fashioning masks out of 100% cotton material for local health care professionals as the COVID-19 pandemic overtook Texas. “We made masks for the folks who weren’t on the front lines so that the N95 masks could be preserved for the surge teams and the ICUs in the hospitals,” explains Cortes.

The masks have gone through a number of revisions, though. “There’s a pocket in the masks,” says Cortes, “so that an N95 mask can drop inside, with a little pipe-cleaner that molds to the bridge of the nose in a more comfortable way.” The masks are washable and brightly colored so that they fit nicely into pediatrics, other non-emergency departments, and now even for “essential” business employees. They are created in an assembly line fashion, and Cortes and her colleagues are on the front end of that process: “We cut the fabric, iron the pieces, and then Becky’s team does the actual sewing.”

The Fabric

Cortes used her people skills to leverage her husband Luis’ success as a CEDIA Outreach Instructor to help the cause: “The COI program has helped us make tremendous inroads with designers. So, we sent out a call to the ASIDTXGC chapter asking for fabric.” Cortes was able to fill up her SUV with material for the masks as soon as word went out. More than 1,000 masks have been distributed so far.

“We asked Becky if she wanted to start a GoFundMe, tell the press, or something, but she’s having none of it. She doesn’t want attention, she just wants to help,” says Cortes.

And the experience has been incredibly gratifying for everyone involved.

“This is all about the community -- we’ve got to work together. Healthcare professionals are doing so much, so this is one little thing that we can help out with to keep Houston safe and healthy.” 

PHOTOS (Top to bottom): Health care workers wearing the masks, Kelsey from Echo Workshop ironing material, the flier Cortes used to request fabric donations

Do you know of a CEDIA member who’s pitching in during the pandemic? We’d love to hear your story. Contact CEDIA’s Ed Wenck: ewenck@cedia.org