The Sumter Item collecting money for Sumter Cares masks donations

Masks will be given to public schools


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A group comprising church leaders, a former state senator and local community members is looking for donations to fund bulk orders of masks for Sumter School District.

Those not still on lockdown from the coronavirus pandemic may have seen people wearing white cloth masks with the words "Sumter Cares." Now, the group behind the Sumter Cares masks and The Sumter Item are partnering to help provide an easy collection point for the public to donate money toward more masks, which will be distributed to public schools in Sumter.

Similar to The Sumter Item's Fireside Fund and Summer of Caring, members of the public can drop off checks at our office or mail them, and we will collect them for the Sumter Cares Steering Committee. Alice Drive Baptist Church has set up a nonprofit to manage this fundraiser.

"All of us would like to do something, no matter how small or large. Knowing this stays local, I think people will feel good about that," said Phil Leventis, a former state senator representing Sumter and Lee counties.

Donors can write the check in honor of someone, and The Sumter Item will list the donors, honorees and amounts each Wednesday, just like we do for the Fireside Fund.

All donations are tax deductible, and we will issue a receipt.

Two orders of 5,000 masks each have already been ordered or delivered to the steering committee, of which Leventis and the Rev. Marion Newton and the Rev. Clay Smith, of Jehovah Missionary Baptist Church and Alice Drive Baptist Church, respectively, are members. Those first orders were made possible by $22,500 in private donations.

As of Sept. 3, $423 has also been donated via an online platform through Sumter Lead, which is also available to donors. Donating online is through a Facebook fundraiser organized by Alice Drive Baptist.

To purchase masks in orders of 5,000 - the bulk order through Zebra Custom Designs, a Sumter-based T-shirt printing, embroidery and signs and banner store, makes it most cost effective - the Sumter Cares Masks Fund needs the public to donate more. That would make a total of 15,000 masks donated to Sumter's public schools, and more orders are always welcomed after. One mask costs about $2, and funding will also be used to purchase bags so the masks can be packed and presented individually.

"Studies now are absolutely clear that wearing face masks positively limits transmission of COVID-19, and we will continue to work toward making masks available, especially to Sumter's public school students," Leventis said.

Before the drive began with a focus on schools, 7,000 masks were given to nursing homes, churches, assisted living facilities, Sumter city and county government officials, community centers, neighbors and friends.

"But now, we want to ensure every teacher, every student has a mask to return to school in," the project's website says.

The masks are cotton and washable.