Annabeth Carnes, 17, a Fenton High School junior, has organized a group that has delivered more than 1,600 masks for schools in Genesee County.

“I wanted to do something that could help my community and be safe to have other people participate in,” she said.

It’s her Gold Award project for Girl Scouts, which she’s been a part of for nearly six years. The purpose of a Gold Award project is to create a community project that has depth, breadth and continuity. An important aspect of it is engaging the community and recruiting people to be involved in the project. She’s also involved in Boy Scouts.

“It can’t be a small thing. It has to go outside of you. Getting community support and making it last,” Carnes said.

 This past summer, she and her mom made masks together and sent them to churches, veteran groups and their friends. The project grew. She enlisted volunteers to cut fabric, sew, and make mask kits. At first, they sewed masks for first responders and hospitals. Then they sewed masks for essential workers. Now they’re delivering them to school districts.

They’ve dropped off masks for Fenton Area Public Schools, Holly Area Schools, Linden Community Schools, Flint schools, Grand Blanc school, and they don’t plan to stop anytime soon. They drop off about 50 to 75 masks at a time.

“They’re going to need way more than that. Continuous community

support has been really helpful,” she said. “My friends were all excited because it was something they could do from the comfort and safety of their own homes.”

Carnes is working with about 30 people who help cut fabric and sew the pieces. They make sewing kits for people who want to get involved. A grandmother, who hadn’t seen her granddaughter in months due to the pandemic, got involved in making masks, and so did her granddaughter. Carnes said it’s become something they can do together while wearing masks.

They make masks for kids and adults, and they use kid-friendly fabrics so the younger kids are more likely to want to wear them. They also work with a few sewers who make specialty masks for teachers and students in special needs classrooms. This includes clear masks, which are used when speaking with people who read lips due to auditory difficulties, as well as masks with softer fabric for students who experience sensory issues.

“We contacted schools and asked if there was a need. Turns out, there was a major need,” she said. At FAPS, she was told that they had enough money to buy teachers reusable cloth masks and every student on disposal mask, and that was it. When they brought masks to Tomek-Eastern Elementary, the school was nearly out of masks.

They look at population size and the percent of students who qualify for free and reduced lunches to determine the number of masks they drop off at a school.

Her Gold Award project was selected to be showcased in a video presentation with the Girl Scouts.

 Her mother Lindsey Carnes said this project will help these school districts connect with members of the community and build relationships, which creates a better support system for long-term use.

“It creates resilience in the future as well,” she said.

They’ll make masks for as long as schools need them.

“I personally can’t fix COVID and I can’t fix the problems my community is facing, but I can help a little bit,” Carnes said.

If anyone wishes to get involved, they can email lindsey@ffpc.org or contact Carnes through her Instagram account she made for this project with the username wearing_is_caring_drive.

Carnes has been doing virtual learning at the high school. She’s also enrolled at the Genesee Career Institute in a welding program and she’s dual enrolled at Mott Community College.

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