News Release

Project Protect Begins Distributing 5 Million Masks for COVID-19 Relief 

Utah’s frontline health care workers are starting to receive clinical face masks that thousands of residents volunteered to assemble as part of an ongoing service initiative organized by Intermountain Health Care and University of Utah Health, in partnership with Latter-day Saint Charities.

Downloadable resources for the media: B-Roll | SOTs


Project Protect, the name of the service initiative, aims to provide 5 million pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) to Utah health care workers treating COVID-19 patients.

“This is huge, that staff know that they’re going to have enough masks to keep themselves and their patients safe,” said Colleen Connelly, senior nursing director for Clinical Care at University of Utah Health, one of the entities that received a batch of donated face masks.

“It keeps them feeling secure and so touched by the community that the community would stand behind us in this way,” Connelly added.

Shortly after the Church’s First Presidency announced a global effort to address the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of humanitarian projects led by Latter-day Saint Charities (the humanitarian arm of the Church) and friends of the faith have continued to unfold around the world.

“We have partnerships, whether it’s a pandemic or not, and we really depend on these relationships … so that when there is a pandemic we don’t have to start from scratch,” said Sharon Eubank, president of Latter-day Saint Charities. “We go to work right away.”

One example of these partnerships is the 5 million mask project unfolding in Utah.

Intermountain Healthcare, University of Utah Health and Latter-day Saint Charities organized a five-week volunteer-based initiative to sew and distribute medical-grade clinical face mask kits with residents’ help.

“We knew that our burn rate or usage rate of the PPE materials could leave us short,” said Dr. Andy Phillips, who specializes in occupational medicine at University of Utah Health.

“To know that we have such a large number of high-level masks coming allowed us to be able to inform our workers that they could use the current supplies in a more liberal fashion,” said Dr. Phillips.

To prepare for the anticipated surge in COVID-19 patients, the local entities combined efforts and came up with a plan to source medical-grade material, design a clinical face mask pattern with the help of medical professionals and finally invite the public to join Project Protect.

“Everybody wants to be doing something right now,” said Katie Marrett from Murray, Utah, who signed up to participate on “I was just so excited to help the people that are actually helping the people that are in most need.”

“For the past few weeks, we’ve been sitting at home, not having something to do,” said Eden Mathews, from West Jordan, Utah.

Mathews, who also serves as the president of the Relief Society of her local Latter-day Saint congregation, registered to pick up more than 1,200 clinical face masks that were distributed among her fellow congregants.

“We’d like to do more, and so this was an opportunity to do that,” said Mathews.

Marrett and Matthews are two of 20,000 service participants that enrolled online to volunteer their time.

Once individuals register online, they are assigned a date, pickup time and the location at one of five participating Deseret Industries locations to pick up the clinical face mask kits.

The drive-through lanes of the Deseret Industries locations in American Fork, Harrisville, Layton, Murray and Riverton were temporarily converted into Project Protect hubs to increase the flow of volunteers picking up unassembled kits and printed instructions that outlined the steps to assemble each mask.

Each participant is then given a return date and time to drop off the completed mask kits several days later.

“This project came as a response for a need, specifically for this area, but we know that this is happening everywhere,” said Sister Reyna I. Aburto, second counselor in the Relief Society General Presidency, who greeted volunteers and collected completed face mask kits from participants at Deseret Industries’ American Fork location.

“We are so grateful for the people that are just willing to give up their time and their talents and their abilities to work on this project,” Sister Aburto added.

On average, one clinical face mask can be folded and sewn in eight to 15 minutes. Each kit comes with material to assemble 100 face masks and can take up anywhere from 12 to 16 hours of sewing time.

Project Protect volunteers published photos of their progress and local health care workers expressed their appreciation on the Project Protect Utah Facebook page.

“People all over Northern Utah … joined together into one extended team for a relay pickup and porch-dropping adventure this week,” said Susan Selim, a volunteer from Cache Valley.

Selim explained that her team of volunteers carried out a relay-style pickup and drop-off of approximately 30,000 masks from Deseret Industries in Harrisville to volunteers’ homes in just a few hours each time.

“Thank you from the front line. Your service and sacrifice [are] making a difference,” posted Deann Robinson, a nurse administrator at Intermountain Garfield Memorial Hospital in Panguitch, Utah.

Once kits are completed and returned, Project Protect organizers collect the clinical face masks and deliver them to health care centers’ receiving docks, where they are processed and sterilized prior to distribution.

In the coming weeks, clinical face masks will continue to be distributed to Utah health care workers upon completion.

Volunteer opportunities are posted weekly on Project Project’s website. The service initiative ends on Saturday, May 23.

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.