Restaurant family making masks for local health care workers
When they first heard about COVID-19 in Southwest Florida, The Island Cow owners Elke and Brian Podlasek and their two daughters began sewing protective face masks for their close friends who work at Lee Health. As the situation progressed, island businesses began to close and the couple temporarily closed the doors to their restaurant.
While observing the stay-at-home recommendations, the family had materials shipped to their house and quickly produced more than 1,000 masks to date. They were even able to secure the N95 protective material to place inside the masks, ensuring that the marks are safe for use in the health care settings.
“The nurses, doctors and health care workers at Lee Health are on the front lines exposed to the coronavirus every day, so when we heard their supplies were limited, we grew concerned for their health and safety,” Elke Podlasek said. “We love arts and crafts and have the resources to assist, so we jumped in to help. It’s important for our children to learn how they can proactively and productively help others at a time when we might be feeling helpless.”
Helping those in crisis is a common thread for the family. In 2018 after Hurricane Michael hit the Panhandle, the couple supported their teen daughter, Kristina, in founding a nonprofit organization, Kids’ Care Disaster Relief. After engaging classmates and friends at the Canterbury School to create and sell custom artwork, tile coasters and solicit donations, support grew – and so did the needs.
From the California wildfires to Hurricane Dorian, Kids’ Care Disaster Relief mobilized donations and fundraisers, donating 100 percent of the proceeds to disaster support services. The children and their families even took a field trip to the Panhandle to personally present the donations. The group currently includes 21 students and has raised $45,000.
Today, with COVID-19 at the forefront of concerns, Kids’ Care Disaster Relief is once again mobilizing and seeking support. Support for the organization will help fund the materials for making more masks. As the situation continues, future needs will be addressed. In the meantime, the family continues to focus on the critical needs locally by making masks.
“As long as there’s a need and our Island Cow remains closed, we remain committed to supporting our community, especially our friends and health care workers,” Elke Podlasek said.
For more information or to donate, visit www.kidscaredisasterrelief.com or call 239-848-5533.