Through the Masks for Ags campaign, the REACH Project raised over $2,800 and will receive up to 850 masks by Aug. 15 to distribute to Invisible Aggies during the coronavirus pandemic.
The REACH Project, representing respect, empowerment, aspiration, community and hope, started the Masks for Ags campaign with a GoFundMe donation page on July 14, which they later extended through Aug. 19 to garner more support. This campaign seeks to spread awareness about the service staff at Texas A&M, also known as “Invisible Aggies,” and raise funds to purchase reusable face coverings for them.
Max Gerall, Class of 2018 and founder of the REACH Project, said the Masks for Ags campaign is a response to the needs of the community. Invisible Aggies and their family members told him that the $1 non-reusable masks were getting too expensive, Gerall said.
“Our families were having trouble finding a mask that they could use to protect themselves while cleaning the buildings and taking care of students,” Gerall said. “Many do not have health insurance and will still be risking their lives just so we can attend classes. We’re hoping to raise funds to provide reusable CDC-approved masks, so we can do our part in helping protect Invisible Aggies who are going to be protecting all of us.”
To support the Invisible Aggies, Avery Lemmons, business junior and executive of the student ambassador program for the REACH Project, said the Masks for Ags campaign was launched on social media in order to reach the most people possible.
“When we heard about this need for [masks], we decided to respond by holding a social media campaign,” Lemmons said. “We were challenging students to post a selfie in a mask and then tag three of their friends to challenge them to help raise awareness and then to donate [$5].”
Payton Fanning, finance graduate student and chief financial officer of the REACH Project, said the fundraising campaign was originally scheduled to last three days, but it was extended until the end of summer in order to meet their $5,000 goal.
“In that 72-hour period, we raised over $2,600, so it was a little more than halfway of our goal which was a really big milestone,” Fanning said. “It wasn’t exactly what we wanted, but the fact that we could run a grassroot campaign, raise that amount of money and be able to channel it to an urgent need so effectively was incredible.”
With the collected funds, Gerall said the organization has been able to order more masks to distribute to individuals who have reached out to them.
“We’ve already handed out 250 reusable cloth masks,” Gerall said. “We have a shipment coming that’s supposed to get here by [Aug. 15] that will be another 500 to 600 masks. There’s about 3,000 Invisible Aggies on campus. We’re hoping to be able to get at least one mask for every Invisible Aggie. If that’s achieved, then we would love to be able to provide some masks for their family members as well.”
As the new semester starts, the organization is transitioning from GoFundMe to a concept of Buy One, Give One, where the price of a mask covers both the one that the person is buying and one that will be provided to an Invisible Aggie, Lemmons said.
“The masks have different designs with [the REACH logo] that would match different personalities,” Lemmons said. “We wanted them to reflect the individual nature of every student and every Invisible Aggie buying them. Students are buying and not only protecting others by getting one for themselves but also helping the Invisible Aggies be productive.”
Fanning said this Masks for Ags campaign gives everyone an opportunity to help support the Invisible Aggies, and he is excited to see how this momentum will carry on this fall.
“We have been able to meet this urgent need, and that is all thanks to hard work of the Aggie community,” Fanning said. “It took care of the Invisible Aggies, who have been taking care of students every single day of our college experience. That is by far the greatest thing that Masks for Ags has accomplished.”