By Ricky Cortez

Ricky Cortez (far left) with his husband and children. Photo by Elsa Garrison.

Ricky Cortez (far left) with his husband and children. Photo by Elsa Garrison.

I remember my grandmother, who adopted me at age 1, telling me once that it takes a real man to be able to cry. At age 10, I thought she was trying to comfort me. As an adult I see the compassion and empathy exhibited form the men I have known that have been able to show and express their emotions. At this time in our world that compassion and emotion is at the forefront of every home in the world.

As we enter this new and hopefully temporary existence of dealing with COVID-19, we are finding new ways to be empathetic for our fellow humans around the globe. Our family wanted to find a way to deal with the epidemic, but vexed with how to under a “Stay-at-Home” recommendation. I saw a local facebook group formed called, “SOMa Sewing Volunteers” on how members of my community in Maplewood, NJ were sewing masks to aid our first and second responders and those affected by COVID-19.  I didn’t have a sewing machine, fabric or any materials, but saw other people offering. Within hours I had a donated sewing machine, fabric and all the materials necessary for me to try and help.

Now, I have not used a sewing machine since 7th grade, but if I could make a heart shaped pillow at age 12, I hoped I would be able to make a mask now. The challenge is how do two working parents homeschool their children, while working, making food, and fitting in conference calls?  I am the property manager for Mt. Maplewood Lodge, 3 vacation rental cabins in the lake communities of the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania and with the COVID-19 rules and protections on a daily basis it has been non-stop changing listings and rules and regulations for compliance. We set up our dining room table as command central. The kids (1st Grader and 4th Grader) sitting side by side with us on our devices.

Lastly, we added the sewing machine to the table. Watched a video, cut my fabric, elastic and started sewing. Stop and started between my husband’s conference calls and lesson with the kids but after 30 minutes I had my first mask. Now, how to get others to engage in the movement or at the very least awareness? First, I’m a dad sewing. Sewing has historically not been associated with guys as much, although there are a ton of male operated tailor shops. That should get some attention. But, we needed a good hashtag. This is where my grandmother’s voice echoed in my head. “It takes a real man to be able to cry.” I took a spin on it after seeing that the sewing groups were predominantly moms. Then I tagged everything “#RealMenSew – It’s easier than using a mitre saw!” and we saw some of the dads come out of the woodwork. Most were helping to cut fabric or cook while their wives sewed, but part of the process nonetheless. Now we are asking for your help:

How you can help?

Join: Million Mask Challenge – Creating Masks for Healthcare Workers & Caregivers

Borrow a sewing machine and follow a pattern like this: How to Make a Face Mask
Can’t sew? Cut cotton fabric (6” x 9”) and/or elastic and send to Million Mask Challenge.
Don’t have fabric and can’t sew? Ask MMC what materials you can send to them or someone around you!

Thank you,
Ricky Cortez

*Former founder of LGBT Families, proud father, husband and own and operate a LGBTQ & family friendly set of cabins in the beautiful Pennsylvania mountains of the Poconos. Please check us out at: https://www.mtmaplewoodlodge.com.

Ricky Cortez and family

Mt Maplewood Lodges

Photos by Elsa Garrison.