The Bag Ladies raise money for the Family & Intercultural Resource Center sewing masks this year
Over $21,000 has been raised by the group over the past year
The Bag Ladies started out in 2008 when a few women began to make reusable bags out of clothes that wouldn’t sell in the Family & Intercultural Resource Center’s thrift store. When the pandemic created a massive need for cotton facial coverings, The Bag Ladies stepped up to the plate, sewing masks and giving profits and donations to the resource center. Since the group’s founding, over $200,000 have been raised. Close to 5,000 masks have been made this year.
Brianne Snow, the Family & Intercultural Resource Center’s executive director, explained that The Bag Ladies program started in 2008 when thrift store volunteer Kay Bullington noticed that a lot of clothing that couldn’t be sold ended up getting thrown away. Bullington decided to recycle these clothes by washing them and making them into bags for a suggested donation. Bullington has since moved away and the position of Lead Bag Lady has been taken by Shona Osborne.
In April, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention started asking people to wear facial coverings to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, the group pivoted from making bags to making masks. The group is composed of about 40 volunteers who use scrap fabric to make the masks and drop them off at Osborne’s doorstep. Osborne said they made some for St. Anthony Summit Medical Center and then gave some to the resource center to distribute to clients and staff.
“Word got around the county pretty quickly that The Bag Ladies were making masks, and friends and friends of friends were calling us and just saying, ‘Can I have some masks?’ because there were none available at that time …” Osborne said. “So we didn’t actually put a price on it at the beginning. We just asked people for donations for the food bank and the money started rolling in.”
The Bag Ladies received a few $1,000 donations for just two or four masks. They then started selling the masks for $5 each in local liquor stores. Osborne said the masks have been selling well in the liquor stores, and added that the stores aren’t taking any profit when selling the masks.
At first, The Bag Ladies used extra fabric of their own to make masks and later started receiving fabric donations. Recently some of The Bag Ladies bought Christmas and Hanukkah fabric to make festive masks, as Osborne commented that masks have turned into a fashion item. They even made custom masks for the statues of founders Max and Edna Dercum at Keystone Resort.
“I was skiing up there a couple of weeks ago and I walked past the statues and I thought, ’Well Max and Edna need masks,’” Osborne said, which inspired her to get in touch with Keystone Resort to put masks on the statues.
Snow said the money raised goes into the resource center’s emergency assistance fund, which provides food, rent and medical assistance. Just in the past fiscal year, The Bag Ladies have raised $21,000 and have had their third-best fundraising year despite not being able to have their usual bag stand at the Dillon Farmers Market.
“They just went above and beyond to make sure they reached their own personal goals for selling, and have surpassed it,” Snow said. “This year has been one of their biggest years and so we’re just so proud of them and they are just really caring community members.”
Once the pandemic is over Osborne said The Bag Ladies will go back to making bags instead of masks. The Bag Ladies have set up shop at Summit Thrift and Treasure and can be contacted by calling the Family & Intercultural Resource Center at 970-262-3888.
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