Ontario Construction News staff writer
When the COVID-19 started spreading in Ontario and disrupting construction projects, Max Cucchiella put his construction company on hold and started The Como Foundation – to create personal protective equipment for health care workers.
When he was contacted by the Bob Rumball Home for the Deaf in Barrie the foundation took on a new project.
Rumball staff “provided a pattern that was nothing more than a rectangle sheet with a vinyl insert,” Cucchiella said. He sewed the first 100 masks according to the specifications, unhappy with the fit and determined to improve the design for lip-reading masks.
Since that first phone call, Cucchiella has been producing face masks for individuals who are hearing impaired and those who work with them.
Working from his Mississauga home, he continues to produce cotton masks with a twist – a clear vinyl insert.
“It covers your nose and mouth, but leaves you space to lip read,” he says. While traditional masks were shutting communication down for people who rely on reading lips, Cucchiella’s solution “opens society back up.”
Bob Rumball staff and residents received one of the first shipments of the redesigned mask – 100 were donated by the Como Foundation.
Upon delivery to the home, he was “most bothered by the fact that these masks simply did not fit the face” and vowed to come up with a better solution for this community that was really feeling the loss of communication when we were directed to mask up.
Many late nights and numerous prototypes late, Cucchiella says he is pleased with the lip-reading mask.
The foundation is waiting for approval from the Ontario Together Fund to get support for making the masks as the demand has been overwhelming.
“We started selling our masks as we simply could not afford to donate the numbers we were being requested to make, and now we donate back from every mask sewn to either The Bob Rumball Association, or The Canadian Hard of Hearing Association,” he said.
Donations have gone to The Bob Rumball Home for the Deaf, Silent Voice, Gillian’s Place in St.Catharines, Clinique Spectrum in Montreal, the Abilities Centre in Whitby, New Haven Learning Centre in Etobicoke, and SHIP in Mississauga – as well as many other places.
“The feedback we have received blows our mind on a daily basis. We have been told that it is the feeling of a child at Christmas, that they are life changing. We see photos of people visiting their elderly parents and hear how they have been able to communicate after not seeing them for months on end due to Covid,” Cucchiello said.
“Without our masks they would have not been able to communicate.”
The masks have also assisted people on the autism spectrum, speech pathologists, victim services and court workers, court houses and others.
With the foundation growing, Andrew has taken the reins at Como Construction Inc. as the economy begins to reopen.