Sophomores Create Nonprofit to Donate Masks to Those in Need


Sophomore Mitali Srinath and Sydney Fish plan the next steps for Cloth for Our Community together over a Zoom meeting. According to Srinath, they are currently in the process of building an Instagram account. Photo courtesy of Sydney Fish.

Kaylie Wu, Staff Writer

The beginning of shelter-in-place in March 2020 left many students with limited opportunities for earning their remaining community engagement credits during the 2020-21 school year. Because attending events in person was no longer an option, it was difficult for some students to volunteer and do impactful work. However, sophomores Sydney Fish and Mitali Srinath took inspiration from the pandemic’s troubles and created Cloth for Our Community, a local organization determined to provide masks for those in need.

Originally, one of Fish’s top priorities during shelter-in-place was figuring out how to complete her missing community service credits. Fish had recently learned to sew, and she decided it was most beneficial for her to earn these credits by sewing masks and donating them to nonprofits in her community. After completing a few masks, Fish realized how easy it was for her to help other people. According to Fish, this was when Srinath helped her transform her school project into an actual organization. “Mitali, who knew I was working on making masks, pitched an idea that we start some sort of small organization,” Fish said. 

The first step Fish and Srinath took in creating their organization was presenting a slideshow to Director of Community Engagement Chris Young. Their proposal included a basic structure of how they planned to create and donate masks to local shelters, according to Fish. By mid-April, after Young helped them refine their plans, Cloth for Our Community was officially born. 

Fish and Srinath immediately began work on their first shipment of masks. They dedicated most of their free time to both sewing and gathering items from friends and neighbors. In June 2020, Cloth for Our Community had compiled and delivered a package of over 100 cloth masks to the Samaritan House in San Mateo County, an organization working to fight against poverty. According to Srinath, this allowed Cloth for Our Community to expand their organization. “Donating to the Samaritan House was our first big donation, and it really proved to Sydney [and me] that we could actually make a difference through our organization,” Srinath said.

As Cloth for Our Community continued to help more and more local nonprofits, an overwhelming amount of work quickly piled up for Fish and Srinath. Eventually, the two reached out to some friends for some extra help on their project. Sophomore Reese Weiden joined the team in July 2020 as a Collection and Distribution Specialist. “Mitali expressed an opportunity to help out with her and Sydney’s organization, and I felt inspired by their mobilization in making change,” Weiden said. Weiden’s main role has been distributing bundles of masks to representatives from different organizations. “So far, I’ve dropped off one package at a food bank in San Jose and another for a Native American reservation,” Weiden said.

While Weiden focused on delivering mask bundles, Fish and Srinath brainstormed ways to advertise Cloth for Our Community. “I believe our biggest struggle was broadening our organization,” Srinath said. “Cloth for Our Community’s progress really depends on others [being] willing to donate.” According to Srinath, it took her and Fish over three months to develop an effective advertising campaign.

In May 2020, Fish and Srinath created a website to increase publicity about Cloth for Our Community. On the website, you can find information regarding current projects and how to get involved. Screengrab from

A few of their strategies included hanging up posters in public spaces, designing a website and creating a Facebook page. During this time period, Menlo-Atherton High School sophomore Susie Wagstaff joined the team as a Publicity Officer to help with these tasks and spread news of the organization to students at her own school. “Using the Cloth for Our Community Facebook account, I reached out to groups who had supplies of masks that we could potentially buy and distribute,” Wagstaff said. “The job was generally easy, but it also made me realize how effective and strategic communicating online with others can be.”

Weiden and Wagstaff were only a handful of the new additions to Cloth for Our Community. The team quadrupled in size during the summer of 2020, which allowed Fish and Srinath to expand their goals and work even more. Since then, Cloth for Our Community has donated hundreds of masks to nonprofits such as LifeMoves and Second Harvest of Silicon Valley. However, these accomplishments are just the beginning for Cloth for Our Community, according to Fish. “We are currently partnering with Project Homeless Connect in San Francisco to get masks out to the homeless community so that they can be protected from COVID-19,” Fish said.

According to Fish, she and Srinath have generated many different ideas regarding their organization’s future. “We’ve already expanded from making cloth masks to all different kinds of masks, but Mitali and I are also considering helping with other aspects related to COVID-19,” Fish said. “Additionally, we want to receive more donations and start a financial branch of Cloth for Our Community. The branch would raise money that can be spent on materials, disposable masks, care packages, shipments and more.” For these purposes, Fish and Srinath created a GoFundMe page. The team also plans to start posting consistently on a newly made Instagram account to increase publicity, according to Srinath.