A rising senior at Parkview High School and her two friends have gotten creative with the virtual resources they have on hand during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic to offer help.

When the coronavirus began to spread in the U.S., Joy Ren said she and her friends, Velda Wang and Pamela Esquivel, decided they didn’t want to sit back and complain about all the things they could no longer do. Instead, they wanted to do something of use.

“So I started making masks with my friends and we raised money from our community to buy supplies like fabric, thread, etc.,” Ren said about their “Sew to Save” project.

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They began placing flyers in their neighborhoods’ mailboxes and spreading the word about the money they were raising to support their initiative via social media.

Although Ren’s family already owned a sewing machine before the pandemic, she didn’t know how to sew, so she found a tutorial on YouTube and has been improving her newfound craft ever since.

Four months later, Ren and her friends have sewn about 2,000 face masks and donated them to places all over the area, including Village Vets Animal Hospital, Emory Healthcare, Rainbow Village, the Parkview High School staff, the Centers for Disease Control and at the recent Black Lives Matter protests.

“I’ll probably keep doing this for a long time since school is starting in the fall and I feel there will be an increase in the demand for masks since they’re being required,” Ren said. “This is also a good opportunity to contact other schools who may need them and help spread this and make sure that every student and staff’s safety is prioritized.”

To continue to help in the community, Ren also started a “Canned Food for Masks” subproject, where people in the community donate canned goods and other supplies to the Lilburn Co-op for a free face mask. The project helps support people who may have lost their jobs or who are struggling financially because of the pandemic.

“I have known Joy and her family for a couple of years,” Nikhat Nazarali, Ren’s ACT tutor, said. “Her parents, Kening and Hong, have raised an intelligent, driven and conscientious daughter. Most importantly, the entire Ren family is of kind heart and generous spirit.”

Nazarali said you rarely see a community mobilize so quickly. Within days, Ren rallied dozens of families to participate in her and her friends’ projects.

“The smallest effort can make such a big impact in people’s lives,” Ren said. “I think it not only makes you feel good because you’re doing something to help others, but people don’t realize how something so little can make such a big impact.”

This summer, Ren also began diving into topics related to happiness and psychology since she recently started a club with her friend at school that focuses on random acts of kindness and spreading positivity around the community.

She said she wanted to get a better understanding of those topics, so she took a free online course offered by Yale University and realized how doing something good for others can change how people feel and their outlook on the world.

She’s now conducting a survey that looks at how COVID-19 has impacted high schoolers’ mental health in order to seek out coping strategies and treatment.

For more information or to get involved in all of Ren and her friend’s projects, visit www.we4kids.org.

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