GAR teams up with Goodwill Industries of Akron and others to distribute thousands of masks to the Akron area

Brittany LaPointe \
May 11, 2020

GAR Foundation and the United Way of Summit County recently announced grants to The Goodwill Industries of Akron, Ohio, Inc. to fund the production of protective cloth masks for the Akron community. The Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank and Akron Public Schools, both of which are distributing emergency food, have offered to place the masks in their emergency distribution boxes.

The grant of $28,000 from GAR Foundation along with $40,000 from the Akron Summit County COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund provided Goodwill the support to produce and distribute over 24,700 washable, reusable cloth masks to the local community.

The Center for Disease Control recently released guidelines recommending cloth face coverings in public settings, especially where distancing measures are difficult to maintain. However, many families and Akron Public Schools students do not have access to protective masks.

“We saw a real need for masks, and we were motivated to act,” said Christine Mayer, president of GAR Foundation. “As Ohio begins to reopen, it’s critical that we get as many masks as possible circulated into the community. GAR is thrilled to amplify Goodwill’s efforts to produce and distribute thousands of additional fabric masks for families in the community.”

Since April 6, Goodwill’s 12 sewing professionals and two cutters have made more than 11,000 face coverings for various entities. Support from GAR and the Emergency Fund will allow them to make at least 24,000 more.

“Goodwill and its industrial sewing team are honored to be able to supply face coverings to the community through this award,” said Nancy Ellis McClenaghan, president and CEO, Goodwill Industries serving Summit, Portage, Medina, Ashland and Richland Counties. “We are very proud to be able to help keep people in our community safe through the use of face coverings.”

The Akron Summit County COVID-19 Emergency Support Fund was created through a partnership between United Way of Summit County, the City of Akron, the County of Summit, Akron Public Schools, the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank, Summit County Public Health and Job and Family Services. The fund provides immediate crisis relief by funding food and nutrition assistance; housing, shelter, rent and utility support; child and support assistance; and healthcare assistance to those impacted by or fighting the spread of COVID-19. To date, the fund has raised more than $1.3 million in support of the local pandemic response.

“As Summit County adapts to life in a world changed by coronavirus, we must do our best to help and protect one another,” said Jim Mullen, president and CEO of United Way of Summit County. “We are grateful to Goodwill for stepping up to meet this crucial need in our community.”

Families picking up food from the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank or Akron Public Schools food distribution sites will be offered face coverings.

“The unique circumstances of this crisis have made the distribution of emergency food boxes the focus of the Foodbank’s response efforts,” said Dan Flowers, president and CEO of the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. “GAR Foundation, The Goodwill Industries of Akron, and the United Way of Summit County are long time partners of the Foodbank, and their drive to provide masks to include in food boxes is a nimble and smart way to integrate services to leverage collective impact.”

In addition to its meal distribution sites across the district, Akron Public Schools is also distributing masks to its most medically fragile students participating in summer Extended School Year programming.

“Our folks have distributed 339,000 meals for our city’s children since mid-March,” said David W. James, Ed.D. Superintendent of Akron Public Schools. “Having masks to distribute at food sites will be beneficial to many families.  Akron Public Schools is grateful for the thoughtfulness and the teamwork between GAR and Goodwill Industries of Akron.” 

For more information about Goodwill Industries of Akron’s industrial sewing solutions, visit

“Our community is a resilient one,” said Mayer. “We’re proud to see our partners coming together to help the Akron people during this time of crisis.”

Header image: Goodwill Akron professional sewing facility. Photo c/o Goodwill Industries of Akron, Inc.