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Somali sewing group creates masks for local hospitals

Women with the Somali American Women Action Center are sewing thousands of masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

MINNEAPOLIS — "I'm not an excellent 'sewist' by any means, but it's a skill I knew I could share," says Leslie Mallery.

In 2018, Mallery, a Minnesota native, came across a post by the Somali American Women Action Center on the Nextdoor website. 

They were looking for volunteers to help Somali women learn how to sew. 

Leslie took the step into a space that was new for her at first.

"There were 15 women standing around speaking a language I didn't understand at all," Leslie says. "I just wanted to understand the culture more and because of my involvement with this small group of people my world has become bigger."

Their mission took on a bigger role in the community when COVID hit, too.

They started sewing masks for local hospitals and senior living facilities. Mallery says they've made around 5,000 of them. She estimates around 3,000 of those have gone to Hennepin County Medical Center, who reached out in need of masks for new patients coming into the emergency room and their family members. 

She says they've been able to help the hospital get the amount of masks they need.

As they make an impact on the community, Mallery says the group has had a big impact on her, too. 

"It's just helped me see the world in a brighter way," she says. "I don't know how to say it without getting teary, but it's just helped me be a more tolerant and kind person."

Mallery says they continue to make masks for Hennepin County Medical Center.

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