LONDON, ONT. -- A collaboration between Goodwill Industries and Fanshawe College has lead to the creation of 'The Worker' face mask. 

Two years ago, Fanshawe College and Goodwill Industries had begun a joint project to divert textiles from the landfill, by turning post-consumer apparel into new products. The partnership also served as an opportunity to develop a training program for newcomers to Canada.

“We had put together a product line of manufactured items under the brand name ‘Worth’ and we were just about to launch in May this year, when the pandemic hit,” said Jennifer Wright, professor of Fashion Design at Fanshawe College.

Like many manufacturers, they had to shift gears due to the COVID-19 lockdown. 

“A week later, many phone calls were made, discussing how we could use all this information and expertise to mitigate the effects of COVID-19. We thought it would be a good idea to try to put together a sewing platform that could manufacture masks for general use."

An application for a $65,000 grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council was approved to mass-produce reusable face masks. 

Wright, along with her colleague Meredith Jones, in collaboration with Goodwill Industries, designed ‘The Worker,’ a comfortable, washable, breathable and reusable face mask.

“It is a high-quality mask, that’s highly effective, with a professional look and it replaces costly disposable masks and PPEs that end up in landfills,” said Hasan Habash, vice-president of Operations for Goodwill Industries. “There is also big return on investment here, the masks support both Fanshawe College and Goodwill Industries."

Goodwill says each handmade mask contributes to job creation and valuable skills training to newcomers and post-secondary students in the community. There are currently 27 people employed through this program, and Goodwill Industries is looking to hire more skilled workers.

This project has also allowed for students from Fanshawe’s fashion design program to complete the required co-op placement in order to graduate. 

Wright says there is a real challenge right now, with so many companies providing masks, without doing any kind of research on effectiveness. 

“There are so many masks available that are not effective, and might have low filtration rate. They might look good but they are creating a false sense of safety.” 

That is what sets 'The Worker' apart from the other masks on the market says Habash. 

“The design features allow air flow for breathing, it is above the filtration effectiveness of surgical masks but below the N95, and it upholds the recommendations for public masks by Canada's Chief Public Health Officer."

Habash says they have the ability to mass produce and create private labels. The BEER store just placed an order for 10,000 masks for their employees. 

The highly durable, all-cotton face mask is available for sale at any Goodwill Industries location. For volume discounts, orders can be directed to: