Muncie mayor creates mask program to support local businesses

<p>The YWCA of Central Indiana houses women and children who need a place to live in its emergency shelter program, Jan. 26, 2021, in Muncie. WaTasha Barnes Griffin, CEO of the Central Indiana YWCA, said all of its programs aim to empower women. <strong>Jaden Whiteman, DN File</strong></p>

The YWCA of Central Indiana houses women and children who need a place to live in its emergency shelter program, Jan. 26, 2021, in Muncie. WaTasha Barnes Griffin, CEO of the Central Indiana YWCA, said all of its programs aim to empower women. Jaden Whiteman, DN File

As the coronavirus has spread around the world, the need for masks has spread just as fast as the virus itself, and local businesses have struggled to keep up with the demand. Muncie Mayor Dan Ridenour created the Masks for Muncie program to provide supplies for businesses in need.

“The mayor had several conversations with organizations and business leaders, and there’s difficulty getting masks,” said Dustin Clark, director of special projects for the City of Muncie. “That’s a barrier to them opening their doors.”

Ridenour made the decision to use money from last spring’s CARES Act — which was distributed to state and local governments to combat COVID-19 — to purchase 25,000 single-use masks. Since the program began Jan. 6, businesses have collected 19,375 masks.

Distribution of the masks started in waves. The first wave was direct delivery, which took place in mid-January, and the second wave allowed businesses to pick up orders from the Muncie City Parks office beginning Jan. 22.

“I’ve posted several times on social media and will continue to do so until we’re out of supply,” said Chandra Parks, communications and media director for the City of Muncie. 

The Masks for Muncie program started with different city departments to ensure all city employees could do their jobs safely. After city employees were given masks, the program moved on to the Chamber of Commerce to contact 1,800 of Muncie’s registered businesses.

“We’ve had some people personally contact us because they heard from others,” Clark said, “but hitting city departments, not-for-profits and businesses has been just about everything.”

In order to receive masks, applicants had to provide the name of their organization, a contact person, an email address and how many boxes of masks they wanted. More than 40 businesses in the Muncie area chose to apply.

“We are very pleased to be able to serve our community in this capacity from the city’s perspective,” Parks said. “A lot of thought and heart went into it.”

In early January, the City of Muncie invited the YWCA of Central Indiana to participate in the program. WaTasha Barnes Griffin, CEO of Central Indiana YWCA, said she knew the extra masks would be beneficial for the emergency shelter program, which houses women and children who need a place to live.

“It’s just really important that we have as many protective barriers in place as possible,” Barnes Griffin said. “We want to be able to ensure that we’re able to give masks not just to our on-site staff, but to the guests that come in to utilize our facility.”

Although the YWCA received 5,000 masks from the state at the beginning of the pandemic, Barnes Griffin said she quickly realized that was not enough. 

Barnes Griffin said everyone who comes into the facility will get a package of items provided by Masks for Muncie, including masks, sanitizer and disinfectants.

The YWCA also trains members how to properly wear masks and allows them to take extras home if needed. The shelter requires members to only perform essential tasks during the day, such as going to work.

“There’s very regimented scheduling so that we know where, and when and how they’re moving in our community,” Barnes Griffin said. “They always have to be masked up in our spaces.”

If a visitor arrives at the YWCA without a mask, a front desk worker will provide them with one before they can enter the building. Employees perform temperature checks on all residents daily. 

Barnes Griffin said the Masks for Muncie program will provide the YWCA with as many masks as it needs.

“We don’t want anybody to ever have the struggle of not having a mask,” Barnes Griffin said, “or losing a mask and not [having] replacements.”

Contact Mackenzie Rupp with comments at msrupp@bsu.edu or on Twitter @kenzieer18.

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