WEST WARWICK — Tricia Sellon created Lilu Love with the mission of making the world a better place. So when the COVID-19 pandemic took hold several weeks ago, there was only one thing to do.
“We can help the world,” the West Warwick resident said in a video posted to the Lilu Love Facebook page, a handmade cotton mask stretching across her face.
Sellon, who moved recently from East Greenwich, started her company a few months ago as a side project to her job as a jewelry designer, creating items like tote bags using recycled materials. In March, her attention turned quickly to sewing face coverings that would be donated to whoever needs them.
“As long as I’ve known Tricia, she’s always wanted to help and do what’s right,” Jasmine Konkin, a Coventry resident who’s been helping Sellon with the project, said of her friend Monday.
Just a few weeks into her endeavor, Sellon and a team of volunteers from around Kent County are working around the clock to fill orders for some 1,500 handmade face coverings. Orders have come from around the country, added Konkin, who on Monday shipped masks to people in Washington, Pennsylvania and Florida.
There are currently around 10 volunteers — affectionately referred to as “Lilu Love Legends” — working from their homes to help Sellon with tasks like sewing, communications, finances and making deliveries.
“We’ve got a bit of a production line going right now to get these masks made,” Konkin said, adding that the group is currently making masks at a rate of around 200 per day.
The masks are washable and come in a variety of colors and patterns. They include adjustable elastic straps, and by deconstructing and cutting up air filters Sellon has been able to create a filter insert for each.
Though she can’t guarantee that the masks will prevent people from getting sick, Sellon said she is certain of a few things.
“What I can prove is that, one, it stops you from touching your face,” she said. “Two, it reminds people of social distancing.”
Altogether, each mask costs around $20 to make. But from the beginning, Sellon has striven to make them available for free.
That’s just the kind of person Sellon is, Konkin said.
When she moved recently to Arctic Village, Sellon fell in love with strolling the bike path. And after noticing the garbage littering the path, she became determined to do something about it.
“She thought, this is such a beautiful place to be, I want to help clean it,” Konkin said.
Under the Lilu Love label, Sellon began designing and making rubbish totes out of recycled sailcloth to sell and, driven by her love for the earth, began making regular trips to the greenway to clear the trash.
“She’s always been someone who’s ready to help the next person,” Konkin continued.
The entire face mask project is being funded by donations. Lilu Love is accepting donations of both money — through its GoFundMe page, the group had already raised nearly $3,500 as of Tuesday — and materials like cotton fabric, elastic, thread or filters. Supplies like printer paper, envelopes, address labels and medical gloves for the delivery drivers to wear are also being sought.
Perhaps more urgent, though, is the need for local volunteers who can help with jobs like sewing and thread cutting.
“If we could find some more wonderful warriors to help us that would be awesome,” Konkin said.
On the Lilu Love Facebook page, Sellon made a plea to any seamsters willing to lend a hand.
“If you’re stuck at home, and you have nothing to do, and you’re going to start overthinking things,” she said in a video, “be a part of something bigger than yourself.”
Anyone interested in helping to produce masks can email firstname.lastname@example.org. Orders right now are on hold for a few days while the volunteers get caught up filling current orders.