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From Making Meal Plans to Making Masks

by Alyssa Smolen

Before the new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak occurred in March, Kayla Abella, a senior nutrition and food science major, would commute to Montclair State University’s campus, babysit a local family in her town and rest by watching “The Office.” Since quarantine interrupted this routine, Abella now spends her days practicing yoga, cooking at home and making some money on the side by making masks.

Once it became clear to the public that wearing facial coverings or masks was one of the best ways to stop the spread of COVID-19, Abella saw an opportunity she couldn’t pass up. She also noticed that many of the facial masks she purchased were uncomfortable and decided that she wanted to make a product that would be easier to wear.

“I started coming up with ideas to make them more comfortable and safe,” Abella said. “[And] because people said fabric masks weren’t safe.”

After hearing this, she designed a mask that would check both boxes.

“If you double line them and make a pocket to add a filter, that makes it a lot safer and they are still comfy to wear,” Abella said.

Abella easily made a profit since the demand for face coverings is so high. She makes $7 per mask but offers a deal if individuals purchase three masks.

Image of Abella's masks posted on Facebook. Photo courtesy of Kayla Abella

Image of Abella’s masks posted on Facebook.
Photo courtesy of Kayla Abella

Abella donates extra masks to charities like the Red Cross and to her local hospital where they are given to patients who don’t have them. The Red Cross gives the donated masks to the homeless in order to keep everyone safe.

Since starting this endeavor in May, Abella has donated more than 20 masks to charities in her area.

Abella most often sells her masks to friends and family.

“All my friends will tell their family,” Abella said. “I got a lot of family orders.”

Abella wanted the masks to appeal to all customers so more people would order masks and wear them to stop the spread of the virus.

“I bought a bunch of different fabrics,” Abella said. “I got more feminine fabrics, more masculine, neutral, kids colors and patterns.”

Kayla Tozzi, a classmate, friend and recent Montclair State dietetics graduate, supported Abella by buying a few masks.

“They are comfortable and allow for a filter to be placed in them if this makes you more comfortable,” Tozzi said. “They are adjustable around the ears by ties and it is my go-to mask.”

Abella wearing her personally designed mask. Photo courtesy of Kayla Abella

Abella wearing her personally designed mask.
Photo courtesy of Kayla Abella

Abella does make custom masks for customers if they offer to give her the fabric. Her uncle, for example, requested a “Grateful Dead” themed mask. Abella just asked that he supply her with the material to make it.

After months of making masks, Abella can make three masks in 30 minutes, which is a turnaround time of about 10 minutes per mask.

Tim DeNigris, Abella’s long-term boyfriend, has observed her dedication to helping the community for years now.

“She would spend hours a day making custom masks for people who asked and [was also] donating masks on top of that,” DeNigris said.

Abella plans to keep her mask business running when she begins her last semester this fall. It’s no wonder Abella was interested in making masks as she values health overall. When Abella graduates, she plans to apply for her dietetic internship with a concentration in wellness.

“Even in stressful situations, like what is happening now, she will always find a way to help others and she loves doing it,” DeNigris said.

Abella’s business can be supported through her Facebook page or her personal blog on Instagram, @Nutrikay.

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