Township families banding together for COVID relief

Woodcrest neighbors use lockdown-induced creativity to help community.

Fourth grader Maya Ben-Ari looks stylish as she has all the materials at her disposal to create custom mask lanyards, whose profits will be given to several local charities involved with COVID-19 relief efforts. (Photo credit: Orit Ben-Ari/Special to the Sun)

Two Woodcrest families that have been flexing their creative muscles during the extended
societal effects of the COVID-19 are putting those gains to work for those in need.

Close friends and neighbors, Iris Snyder and Orit Ben-Ari were looking for a way to keep their kids — 9-year-old daughters, Ellie Snyder and Maya Ben-Ari, who attend Bret Harte Elementary School — busy during their time at home while also supporting relief efforts in response to the pandemic.

The girls, with some help from their older brothers, are making mask lanyards, to provide an easier way to wear face coverings for long periods of time without causing irritation or
discomfort around the head and ears.

“It happened fairly early on. We were probably tossing around the idea in June to try and keep the kids engaged. Iris and I, we both kept everyone in our families locked down pretty tight, so it was a way to release some energy,” Ben-Ari said.

“We wanted to do something to give back to the community, because we’re both involved with charitable things in general.”

The group have processed approximately 150 orders in the last three months, for a total of
about 160 lanyards. Most of the orders, she added, are individual, but several recent orders
were for multiple lanyards to be used as gifts.

“Each lanyard is customized,” she said. “We have a link, and people click on it and enter in their request. It’s $18 for a regular lanyard and $20 for a custom job.”

Customers can describe what colors, theme and specifications they wish, and the artists take it from there. So far, Ben-Ari admitted, rainbows seem to be a big hit with kids, while black and white and silver are popular for adults.

Ellie (left) and Noah Snyder (right) are two of the four Woodcrest children who are crafting customized mask lanyards for purchase. Their mom, Iris Snyder, as well as neighbor Orit Ben-Ari, have teamed up to found Mask Lanyards by Design, which will send profits from the lanyard orders to several local charities involved in COVID-19 relief efforts. (Photo credit: Iris Snyder/Special to the Sun)

Depending on the nature of customization, and who makes the lanyard, completion of one job can last anywhere from a half hour to an hour.

“When the moms are making them, we go a bit faster, and it takes the kids a bit longer,” Ben-Ari admitted. “No matter what, there’s a great amount of care involved, because we do tell the girls who (the piece) is for, it gives them a little boost.”

As the Snyder and Ben-Ari families were active in their community and with charities before coronavirus arrived, it was a cinch to figure out which organizations were most worthy.

To date, they have made donations to No Kid Hungry, Jewish Federation of Southern New
Jersey’s COVID-19 Response Fund, Cooper Foundation COVID-19 Assistance Fund and
Cathedral Kitchen.

“It’s a little of both: things we are directly involved with and outlets we know that need help right now. Iris works for the Federation, and I have deep ties to Cooper,” Ben-Ari said.
Though making the lanyards is a key part of the process, both moms are intent on teaching their kids a larger lesson.

“We try hard to educate the kids on the nature of food distribution and insecurity. Every letter that comes in, we make sure the kids see it so they see how impactful their efforts are,” she related.

“It’s teaching them the world is bigger than they are, and to use their creativity to make and impact.”

You can learn more about the effort and order your customized lanyard by following the group on Facebook: Mask Lanyards by Design or visiting: www.tinyurl.com/lanyardsbydesign.