“We’re just one, brick and mortar, mom and pop kind of place, and when this all started, my thought was, ‘Who am I gonna have to lay off?’” said Bauer. “That was the scariest thing in the world.”
But Virginia deemed My Next Puppy an essential business, so the store was allowed to continue some operations in order to care for the puppies until re-opening sequences were initiated.
“We went to appointment-only, limited visits, no wandering around the store, everyone has to be wearing a mask,” said Bauer. “We just have an insane number of rules, but our first priority is keeping everyone safe.”
The beginning of May marked roughly two months of shut-downs and quarantine for Virginia, leaving its citizens anxious for something new to fill their time. Virginians joined the rest of the country in a “pet adoption boom,” leaving shelters from California to Maine empty as new pet parents sheltered in place.
“We were doing alright before, but now, we have a line of 20, 30 people out the door every single day,” said Bauer. “Instead of firing people, I got to actually hire some industry professionals from other areas. I had dentists applying to be my Kennel Technician. It was really eye-opening.”
Obligated to keep their new hires safe and healthy, Bauer said she and her team had to find workarounds for employee PPE to avoid buying up medical supplies that remain essential for health-care workers.
“We decided we needed to figure out how to make our own masks and other protective equipment,” said Bauer. Having immigrated from Italy to New York, Bauer said her family feels close to the tradition of sewing and crafting, adding that her “daughter got her first sewing machine when she was 9.”
“We were making these masks for our employees anyway and were blessed to be able to afford the fabric, so we just started making more to try and help out,” said Bauer.
Makers around the country had a similar idea. As fabric stores raise prices to capitalize on newfound demand, the My Next Puppy team scours Walmarts and delivers what materials they can find to Bauer’s mother, who then sews each mask with multiple layers—as close to medical-grade as possible.
Hoping to make the most of their first donation—100 cloth masks—Bauer and her team contacted GetUsPPE to find a match in need.
“[My mom] put so much love into [the masks] that I wanted to make sure they would go to someplace that would really be using them,” said Bauer. Searching online, Bauer found GetUsPPE local affiliate, GetUsPPEDC, and got in touch. When GetUsPPEDC found an organization with a matching need, Bauer, who lives about 20 minutes outside of DC, delivered the masks herself.
“I was really happy to hear that [the masks] would be going to Everyone Home DC,” said Bauer. “Driving into the city, you see these multi-million dollar homes with people sleeping on benches outside. It’s a really difficult situation. Ordering something online, walking into a Walmart, or getting something to protect themselves—that’s not an option for everyone. The thought that we could save a life by providing these masks—that’s why we decided to do this.”
Everyone Home DC is a nonprofit organization that “supports the holistic needs of individuals and families at risk of or experiencing homelessness.” The nonprofit focuses on holistic support, basic needs, wellness and education through donations and partnerships for individuals working to transition out of homelessness. For more information about Everyone Home DC’s programs or to donate, visit their website or follow them on social media.
Bauer and her team at My Next Puppy hope to provide another batch of cloth masks to a group in need soon through GetUsPPE.
“Our mission is always focused on community service, and all of our employees endeavor to live that out,” said Bauer. “We are doing what we can to help, but there’s always more to do.”