When alumnus Patrick Koslecki’17 heard that hospitals were in desperate need of personal protective equipment he knew he had to do something. “My mother and I both know how to sew and together we made the decision that anything we could do, we would do, “said Koslecki who holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Caldwell.
The shared understanding between Koslecki and his mother has transpired into a project of sewing masks for hospitals and nonprofits. After initially making 15 masks, he posted the story to Facebook and Instagram putting out a call for materials such as elastics, heavy quilter’s fabric, and donations for shipping. Most rewarding to them has been seeing how many people from around the country have stepped up to donate.
With help from extended family, the Kosleckis have made and donated over 600 masks to those who are high risk and to hospitals, clinics, first responders, immunocompromised persons, Navy contractors and Army soldiers.
As orders continued to increase, Koslecki, who is now a graduate student in the Master of Public Administration program at The Colin Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at City College of New York, and his mother were not able to keep up with the demands. “My father masterminded an “assembly line” in our house where my brother would measure our 16 x 9 squares and cut them out, pass them to my dad to be ironed and he would pass them to me to have the hems sewn in and turned inside out, where finally my mother would pleat and attach the straps.”
When the family outgrew their process, they began dropping fabrics off to an aunt and cousins who would cut and iron over 100 masks per day, letting the family focus on the sewing. “Throughout this process, cleanliness and hygiene has been our highest priority,” said Koslecki. “The fabrics are sanitized when moved from house to house, which is another step, but a necessary one.”
Hospitals they have donated to include St. Barnabas in the Bronx and in Livingston, Newark Beth Israel, University Hospital in Newark, Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, NYU Langone’s Cardiac and Acute Respiratory Units and NYC Health + Hospitals/ Harlem. The masks have been sent to 18 states and New Zealand and Italy. “Most important to me are the masks that have been sent to Oyate Health Center in South Dakota, a habitually underserved community where many of the Native peoples do not have access to clean drinking water, let alone access to regular hand washing practices, and HIV clinics serving LGBTQ positive individuals. These individuals deserve to live without stigma, as well as have the security of health as a right, not a privilege,” said Koslecki.
Koslecki says he lives by a belief in the importance of servant leadership—something that he learned from his parents, his mother who is a public-school teacher and his father who is a captain in the Newark, New Jersey Fire Department—which means “never resting when things get tough, but keeping my head down, getting the work done, and encouraging others to do the same.” Koslecki does not do it for the recognition but always simply to do the right thing and help someone in need. “I was raised by public servants who instilled in me that our community and the greater good, is more important than yourself.”