'Take it home:' Mask kits distributed at Fiserv Forum, to be assembled for frontline workers

MILWAUKEE -- The Milwaukee Bucks would be in the heart of the NBA playoffs right now if it weren't for the coronavirus pandemic putting the season on hold.

Alex Lasry

But the Bucks were not sidelined -- teaming up with the community to bring more than two million masks to those who need them most.

"We're here under different circumstances than I think we all would've liked, but in many ways, more important," said Alex Lasry, Bucks senior vice president.

It will always be the home of the Bucks but right now, the loading docks at Fiserv Forum have transitioned into a distribution center for a different project -- MaskUpMKE.

Arvind Gopalratnam

After being screened, volunteers came to pick up kits to assemble 700 masks at a time.

"Take it home, and assemble masks that can ultimately be redistributed back to first responders, healthcare providers, local community organizations and those that need those masks," Arvind Gopalratnam,  Bucks vice president of corporate social responsibility, said.

Mike Kryshak

The kits are made by Saukville-based Revel Converting -- which normally makes wipes. Owner Mike Kryshak said switching to masks was the right thing to do, and called on other companies profiting during this time to do the same.

"We have 30 million people on unemployment, tens of millions of people that are struggling because they don't have jobs," he said.

The goal is to bring two-and-a-half million masks to first responders, healthcare providers and those in need across Milwaukee over the next two weeks. With continued social distancing and some form of personal protective equipment (PPE), the hope is to keep COVID-19 from impacting the city any further.

Zeno Franco

"We have to assume that each one of us is sick and that we're actually wearing the mask to ensure the droplets that we might be spreading aren't getting to our neighbor," said Zeno Franco with the Medical College of Wisconsin.

Once the masks are completed, the volunteers will bring them back to Fiserv Forum to be quarantined for a few days as a precaution.

After that, United Way volunteers will deliver them.