The Boys & Girls Club of Dane County will distribute over 200,000 N95 and KN95 face masks to the public starting Wednesday at the Allied Family Center Boys & Girls Club on 4619 Jenewein Road, according to the organization.
From noon to 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 12, through Friday, Jan. 14, anyone can walk or drive up the Boys & Girls Club on Jenewein Road and receive up to 10 face masks thanks to the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County’s mission to distribute thousands of masks to the community.
“People can just walk up or drive up and we’ll distribute masks to people (who) need them,” a press release from the Boys & Girls Club says. “We’re not going to turn people away.”
Last week, the Boys & Girls Clubs set up a GoFundMe to raise money for 200,000 N95 and KN95 masks for students, teachers and other Madison Metropolitan School District staff. The fund has already raised $20,575 after MMSD buildings recently reopened for in-person instruction Monday after an extended winter break and a brief return to virtual learning.
Madison and Dane County are seeing a large spike in COVID-19 cases, caused by the highly transmissible Omicron variant. With COVID hospitalizations breaking records locally and 3% of the county testing positive for the virus within the last two weeks, the local health department has doubled down on its efforts to get well-fitted masks to the public.
Michael Johnson, president and CEO of the local Boys & Girls Club, has been up with his team since 6 a.m. on Wednesday to plan for the mask distribution. He told the Cap Times that Gov. Tony Evers’ office helped make the 200,000 masks available for the public, dropping them off at the Boys & Girls Club of Dane County Tuesday.
“The governor's chief of staff saw some of my social media posts and she said, ‘Hey, we can help you. You don't have to raise money for this. We can get you face masks,’” Johnson said. “Within two days, we got 200,000 face masks — they arrived yesterday morning.”
All of the masks were adult-sized so Johnson secured an additional 15,000 KN95 masks for children Wednesday morning.
Johnson is also trying to get at least 400 nonprofits about 250 face masks each. He said those requests were starting to come in on Wednesday. Community grassroots and nonprofit organizations can submit requests to get 250 masks each to email@example.com.
But he isn’t sure how much the public will be interested in the masks.
“With face masks, when we did it early on in the pandemic, I was shocked how quickly they ran out,” Johnson said. “This is serious and people need to take it seriously. I don’t know if people are as scared of this now as they were two years ago.”
Johnson has been surprised at the amount of pushback from the community on continuing masking efforts. He had to delete a Facebook post advertising Wednesday’s drive because of hundreds of anti-masking comments.
“There are some anti-mask people here that are really upset we’re doing this. I’m actually really surprised by this,” he said. “There are a lot... who don't believe that we should be doing this, who don't believe that we should be asking kids to wear face masks.
“When all is said and done, we’ll be on the right side of history. We're hoping that we can potentially save one person's life. We have to do our part to keep people safe,” he said.
After this week, masks will be available for pickup through the end of January from noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Friday at the Allied Family Center.
There will also be a community meal and mask pick-up from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 15, at the Allied Family Center. Ten masks will be included with each meal in honor of service for Martin Luther King Day.