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Toronto startup is delivering thousands of home-sewing kits so people can make face masks

It's hard not to feel a bit futile sitting at home in this time of crisis, wishing you could do more to help fight the war against COVID-19.

Public health officials will be quick to stress that all Toronto residents are playing an important part in stopping the coronavirus from spreading just by staying indoors — but there are other ways that housebound hobbyists can help frontline workers get through this pandemic.

We've heard a lot lately about organizations, large and small, securing PPE for healthcare professionals, but what about non-medical essential workers such as supermarket cashiers, cab drivers and convenience store clerks?

With government officials now encouraging all people to wear homemade, non-medical masks while travelling or shopping, the demand for such protection is growing — and dozens of Toronto companies have already stepped up to the plate.

The digital product sampling company Sampler, a MaRS Discovery District-supported startup based in Toronto, is going one step further than those making and giving away cloth masks by making and giving away kits to help people craft their own.

Through something called the ComeTogetherTO initiative, Sampler has partnered with number of Canadian companies to send out 2,000 at-home sewing kits to consumers with sewing skills.

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Sampler team members in the company's warehouse. Image via Sampler.

"With these kits, members will be able to produce over 20,000 non-medical grade masks to be donated to members of the Toronto community in grocery stores and shelters," writes the company, noting that it hopes the masks will serve as "an additional protective measure for members of the Toronto community."

The idea is that by providing cloth masks to those who don't require medical-grade PPE, more desperately-needed surgical and N95 masks will be available for frontline workers

To participate, interested parties can join Sampler and answer a set of "diagnostic questions." If they qualify, the company will be in touch about where to send the mask sewing kit.

"COVID-19 is impacting everyone and like many others in our community, Sampler was looking for a way to do its part," said Sampler founder Marie Chevrier in a release on Tuesday.

"This initiative just proves how much we can accomplish when we all come together and in times like these, that is exactly the glimpse of hope we all need."

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