North Edmonton business plans to give out 1,000 face masks

A local business owner is planning to give out free cloth masks to help his north Edmonton community.

Ronald Singh, owner of Castledowns Cleanitizing Dry Cleaners, is planning to give out 1,000 masks through the grassroots distribution campaign. It’s currently recruiting volunteers to help hand out the masks at public parks and bus stations.

“I decided as a business to try to help the community that I’m in,” Singh said Saturday. After watching public debate around mask-wearing as numbers spiked across the province, he resolved to order the mass quantity from another northside business, Powerplay Sports.

He said each mask cost about $5 but that there is no price on a life.

“If you’re saving one person, potentially just because of a piece of cloth, then there’s no price to put,” he said. Singh is also inviting other businesses to help support the initiative.

Singh, having experienced homelessness himself, says the focus will be the city’s most vulnerable.

“To spend a few bucks on a mask wouldn’t have been a priority back then.”

Caitlin Elliot is helping Singh, having made contact with him through Facebook and now acting as the project’s organizer. She was helping him package the masks at his dry cleaning business Saturday, the same day masks were made mandatory in public indoor spaces across the city.

“I think it’s great,” Elliot said of the new bylaw. “I think we have to work collectively in order to get through this.”

She says providing education is a core component of their distribution plan. Written instructions on how to properly wear and clean the cloth masks are included in every package.

The plan is to give out around 100 masks a day until his first order of 1,000 masks runs out. Singh isn’t ruling out purchasing more.

“The goal is really until everybody’s masked.”

Council passed the mandatory mask bylaw on Wednesday, requiring people to wear a mask or something similar in all indoor places where the public has access. There are a number of exceptions, including mental or physical limitations, and it does not apply to schools, hospitals, health-care facilities and child-care facilities.

The city has said it is focused on education, awareness and communication but a $100 dollar fine for infractions is a reluctant possibility.

“We’re not going to be using the stick to enforce this,” interim city manager Adam Laughlin said Wednesday. “It’s not going to be punitive, it’s going to be supporting and helpful in building the awareness that this is the requirement.” 

The provincial government launched a second round of mask distribution in mid-July, giving out non-medical, disposable masks through drive-thrus, municipalities, and other partners.