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Portland couple's mask drive gets donation of 50,000 masks

Jim and Michele James were trying to fulfill a request for 4,000 masks when a California clothing company stepped in and donated 50,000.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Using their bed and breakfast Happy Rock Inn as a base, Jim and Michele James started a program to give back to their community during the coronavirus pandemic. 

They called the program “Peace Love and Safety", and the goal was originally to give away free masks, face shields and sanitizer to those living near them in Clackamas County.

Jim and Michele's face mask drive started in the May 2020 when they put up $150 and began donating face masks to their neighbors and friends that lived nearby. Those that had just lost their job or were too sick or afraid to leave their house would get one. Volunteers offered to drop off face coverings to those that needed them.

It was a small venture to start off -- a passion of the Jameses that was suddenly going to grow. 

Donations poured in from all around, even coming from a local dentist office that donated their own stash of personal protective equipment (PPE) to the program.

The couple said they recently heard from a minister looking for food and water to donate to the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs when the minister asked about the program and if he could donate 4,000 masks. 

"At that point, we had only supplied about 400 masks," Michele said. "So it was a big number. Honestly, we weren't afraid of it."

They knew they needed help, so they called multiple companies and landed on Bella+Canvas, a Los Angeles-based clothing company. 

Bella+Canvas agreed to send 50,000 masks to the cause, but first Jim and Michele had to partner with a nonprofit.

The couple teamed up with Great Spirit Church of Portland, which works closely with Native American communities.

In early November, the box truck full of masks arrived.

Credit: Jim James

"There were so many tears that were shed, it's just so amazing," Michele said. "It's such an amazing outpouring outreach and we're just thrilled to be a part of it."

Enough masks were donated to supply each member of the Warm Springs Tribe with three masks each, which according to Emergency Manager Dan Martinez, is a much-needed donation.

"We have a number of needs to serve this community because of our location, the distance to pick up these items has been a challenge," Martinez said.

The Warm Springs Reservation has been hit hard by COVID-19. Martinez said roughly 400 of the 3,200 people that live there have been infected by the virus.

"It's been a disaster to say the least," Martinez said.

Jim and Michele thought that if Warm Springs has a need, others do as well. The couple will work with Great Spirit church to determine the needs of other tribes in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

"Our hope is to help save lives and our hope is to give people what they need to make this winter better," Michele said.

Jim and Michele looking for a large bulk quantity of hand sanitizer to hand out with the masks as well.

If you'd like to help or donate, you can e-mail the Jameses at info@happyrockinn.com