When COVID-19 first shut down the economy, Annamarie McGuffin was stuck at home with her daughter Tatum, who returned from college in Ireland because of the shutdown.
Bored at home, the McGuffins thought of ways to contribute to the community, so they decided to make masks.
The mother-daughter duo named their masks One-for-One because for every mask that was purchased, another was donated. They would eventually sell or donate a combined 6,000 masks, many for people working during the state-mandated quarantine. When the need for masks became less relevant, McGuffin started to think of what she could do next.
The Bay Trail that runs along the San Mateo County shoreline is a favorite spot for many residents. The paved trail is sandwiched between the shoreline and an assortment of businesses, restaurants and hotels as it weaves its way through the edge of the county following the Bay. On any given day people are seen fishing, walking and exercising on the trail.
Since the pandemic, McGuffin noticed an increase in litter around the trail.
“Sometimes I’d be out there twice a day, so it became a big part of my life,” McGuffin said.
For her, the trail is a place where she would go to walk as a dog-walker but even after her dog-walking job ended, McGuffin said she continued to walk the trail for recreational purposes.
It wasn’t until June of 2021 when she started noticing the trail’s litter problem, McGuffin said that the trail’s litter seemed worse from San Mateo to Burlingame and that it wasn’t nearly as bad where the trail runs through Redwood Shores, Redwood City and Menlo Park by the Facebook headquarters.
Since then, McGuffin has found more than 400 masks along the Bay Trail and San Carlos where she lives. She says she goes on multiple walks a day for exercise and if she finds littered masks she picks them up.
“It became my mission,” McGuffin said.
When she gets home, she removes the elastic straps in hopes that her efforts will protect the wildlife. Her plan was to throw the littered masks away when she came up with the idea to create a yard display with the intention of raise awareness.
For Halloween she made her first lawn display. A mummy that stood over 6 feet tall, constructed from low-grade chicken wire and wrapped with the recycled sewn masks.
She staked it on the front lawn and hung a laminated paper that provided a QR code to her Facebook account where passersby were invited to guess how many masks the mummy was made of. The deadline was set for Nov. 1, McGuffin collected the answers and whoever was closest received a digital gift card as a way to make it interactive and fun.
The feedback received was so positive she decided to make another display for Thanksgiving. The same rules applied, passersby who see the masked turkey displayed in her front yard, enter the QR code and guess the amount of masks used to make the turkey.
“I got to make sure I make the count different from the last time,” McGuffin said as she staked the turkey into the lawn and placed a homemade hat on his head that read, “Vaccinated.”
She said the goal of the lawn displays is to raise awareness. McGuffin said she wants the community to know that mask littering is a problem and her hope is that people will be more aware and start picking up the masks as well.
Even after the holidays are done, McGuffin will continue to pick up littered masks.
“I’m not done, not until I don’t find anymore so however long it takes, I’ll be at it,” she said.