OTTAWA -- The United Way East Ontario wants to make sure vulnerable residents can have a face mask on to protect themselves and others during the COVID-19 pandemic.

With support from Ottawa Public Health, the United Way has launched the “Facing Forward” project to provide masks for those in need.

According to the United Way, Ottawa Public Health and other partners approached the agency to ask for help protecting vulnerable residents of the community.

The United Way East Ontario says it was able to provide thousands of medical-grade Personal Protective Equipment to vulnerable residents and front-line service providers at the start of the pandemic, but “we need your help to do more.”

There are three ways to support “Facing Forward” – Buy, Give or Make.

You can purchase cloth masks for your family, workplace or other groups. Proceeds from your purchase will provide masks to those most in need during the pandemic.

You can make a donation through the United Way East Ontario.

Alternatively, you can make a mask and donate it to the United Way East Ontario for members of our community.

Ottawa Public Health recommends Ottawa residents wear a face mask when physical distancing is not possible to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

“We recognize though that for many, acquiring a mask is not as easy as it sounds,” said Dr. Vera Etches, Ottawa’s Medical Officer of Health during Friday’s teleconference with reporters.

“Whether it’s poverty, homelessness or isolation that make getting a mask a challenge, we need to fill those gaps and ensure that everyone has what they need to keep our communities healthy.”