AIDS Memorial Quilt volunteers using extra fabric to sew masks for homeless

For those who were once on the front lines of the AIDS crisis in San Francisco, what is happening now feels like a re-occurring nightmare.

"Nobody should have to go through two pandemics in one lifetime. Here we are," said Mike Smith.

"It's kind of deja vu from the AIDS epidemic. Somehow even worse because I can't comfort anyone or touch them or do anything physically with them," said Gert McMullin.

Gert McMullen and Mike Smith are two of the creators of the AIDS Memorial Quilt back in 1987.

The quilt quickly became the international illustration of the toll AIDS was taking. The names of loved ones lost, each stitched onto a cloth panel, memorializing them on a quilt that grew larger and larger. 

That AIDS Quilt has a connection to the coronavirus pandemic.

McMullen and others have sewn these masks, hundreds of them, out of the very material that's  left over from the AIDS quilt.

Those masks are going to a non-profit called Bay Area Community Services which works with homeless people in Alameda, Contra Costa and Solano Counties.

"We're on the front lines of the housing crisis and behavioral health crisis every day. When somebody said we are going to bring you this tool to help you keep doing what you are doing, it was so moving," says Renee Tripp of Bay Area Community Services. 

The group says the masks will help workers who go to encampments and people living in group housing. 

"Multiple beds in a large room. So social distancing is very difficult," said Tripp.

Still, the same fears the AIDS pandemic brought are churned up once again and somehow the anxiety is once again eased some by sewing.

"I love the world. I just want to get it back to the way it was. And this is part of doing that,"says McMullen.

The group has made 700 masks so far. They say they have no intention of slowing down.