Big Island Inmates Sew, Donate Face Masks for Those in Need

May 22, 2020, 2:24 PM HST (Updated May 22, 2020, 2:24 PM)
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Tani Freitas and Queen Liliuokalani Children’s Center staff. (PC: Hawai'i Department of Public Safety)
Tani Freitas and Hope Services staff. (PC: Hawai'i Department of Public Safety)
Kulani Correctional Facility employee Tani Freitas with Karen Sawyer, Director of Nursing at Legacy Rehabilitation & Nursing Center. (PC: Hawai'i Department of Public Safety)
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The face mask has become an essential daily covering for Hawai‘i residents as the state fights against the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. To aid the effort of stalling the coronavirus, inmates have taken up the charge to sew the cloth shields.

According to the Hawai‘i Department of Public Safety, inmates in the Hawai‘i Community Correctional Center and Kulani Correctional Facility (KCF) sewing program, under the direction of Hawai‘i Correctional Industries (HCI), made 920 cloth face coverings for those in need in the community.

On Thursday, masks were dropped off at Legacy Rehabilitation & Nursing Center, Hope Services Hawai‘i and Queen Lili‘uokalani Children’s Center. Masks were made with materials that were donated by people from all over Hawaii Island.

“The men assisted in choosing what organizations the masks would be delivered to and worked hard to quickly finish sewing them so they could be delivered to community organizations this week. They are thankful to be given an opportunity to use their recently learned sewing skills to give something positive back to the community,” said Kulani Warden Wanda Craig.

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The masks were delivered to the following agencies, in the numbers requested:

  • Friends of the Children’s Justice Center of East Hawai‘i
  • Hope Services Hawai‘i
  • Queen Lili‘uokalani Children’s Center
  • Hawai‘i Care Choices (formerly Hospice of Hilo)
  • Yukio Okutsu State Veterans Home
  • Legacy Hilo Rehabilitation & Nursing Center
  • Life Care Center of Hilo

Inmates in the sewing program at the two Hawai‘i island facilities and at the Waiawa Correctional Facility (WCF) are producing as many as 4,000 masks a day for sale through HCI. HCI is confidently estimating that the program will be able to produce more than 300,000 masks for sale across the state by the end of June.

“We would like to extend a huge mahalo to our new partner Aloha Air Cargo. They graciously offered to ship completed masks from Hilo to O‘ahu free of charge, and we can’t thank them enough for offering their service to us during these trying times,” said Shawntay Yasuda, HCI operations manager.

HCI is taking orders for cloth masks from state agencies and the public. Hawai‘i Correctional Industries can be reached at 808-677-6638 or by email at [email protected]

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