Chabad Decatur plans to give away thousands of free masks on May 7 to the public. The drive-thru distribution will begin at 11 a.m. outside 315 W. Ponce de Leon Ave.
According to Rabbi Avremi Slavaticki, Chabad has obtained about 6,000 masks to give to the community. “Community members are struggling. We decided instead of targeting only people who need it, we decided to make it open to everybody,” he said. “The main thing is that we made it completely open to everyone, because the main part of this virus is it doesn’t discriminate.”
Chabad Decatur has been active in COVID-19 community responses since the pandemic started, he said. They provided matzah during Passover and did shopping for seniors, who have a higher risk for the virus, throughout the pandemic. Once the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed its guidelines to recommend everyone wear a mask, Chabad decided to prioritize mask donations to the medical community.
By the time they were able to secure a large shipment of masks, “it looks like, for now, the hospitals and care centers have what they need,” Slavaticki said. “We gave to one clinic 250 [masks].”
Having received a large number of masks for donation, they decided to set up opportunities for the entire community instead. Everyone, not only Decatur residents, is encouraged to show up.
In addition to the planned community distribution and the clinic donation, Chabad gave masks to homeless shelters after a representative reached out. “This is the most important – people who are out and don’t have anywhere to live. They’re the most vulnerable,” Slavaticki said.
Around half the cost of the masks and shipping was sponsored by a family in Decatur who wants to remain anonymous, and the effort is also being conducted in partnership with Oakhurst Realty Partners and Redstone Investments. Other donors are stepping up and the rest of the cost will be absorbed by Chabad Decatur. “We were committed to doing it regardless,” Slavaticki said.
About 50 volunteers packed masks from their homes, but more can sign up to volunteer. For safety, the distribution will include only 10 volunteers who will be social distancing, and it will be mandatory to wear a mask and gloves.
The mask distribution will continue until they run out. The entrance is from Ponce de Leon Place, and cars will line up to drive through the former bank at the back of the office building, from which volunteers will be distributing masks.
In addition to masks, each donation will include a positive message, “Kindness, patience, love, enthusiasm and a positive attitude,” in an effort to boost morale and spread positivity. “The main idea to me was if a horrible virus like that could be that contagious and get so many people, G-d forbid, to die and get sick, for the positive side of things to be as contagious.”
Slavaticki is grateful for the support Chabad Decatur has received. “It’s beautiful to see the outpouring of love from this caring community. People are doing whatever they can to support each other in their hour of need,” he said.
To volunteer or donate to this initiative, visit jewishdecatur.com/form/masks.