East Texans have been banding together in myriad ways to help keep each other safe during the COVID-19 pandemic and one of those ways is by making homemade face masks for workers to wear as they go about providing needed services to the community.

Waskom resident Della Alford said two Waskom quilting groups, Waskom Quilt Guild and the Faith Sewing Group joined forces in April to make 120 handmade face masks for East Texas Burger King workers.

East Texas Baptist University’s Mask Ministry also got into the swing of things with about two dozen volunteers cutting cloths and filter fabrics, making ties and sewing together face masks to make more than 1,000 masks that were sent to ETBU graduates who are fighting the coronavirus pandemic on the frontlines. Some of the masks also went to ETBU staff and faculty when they return to on-campus work.

“A lot of us group members go down to the Burger King here in Waskom a lot so we are friends with the workers and managers there,” Alford said. “They reached out and asked us if we could make them 120 masks so we went and bought the fabric in Burger King’s colors, orange, green and beige and we sewed together double layered face masks.”

The fabric and craft stores were all out of elastics to keep the masks on the workers’ heads so the quilters used ingenuity to make the masks stay secure.

“We couldn’t find any elastics anywhere so we used headbands,” Alford said.

By making handmade masks for the workers, ETBU and the Waskom quilting groups are saving precious PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) that could be sent to frontline nurses and doctors, Alford said.

“The ETBU Marketing and Communication Department, under the leadership of Becky Davis contacted ETBU alumni healthcare professionals to ask what their needs were as they work to identify and treat COVID-19 patients,” ETBU President J. Blair Blackburn said on Saturday. “Hundreds of ETBU Tigers are requesting any type of personal protection equipment, from N95 masks, cloth masks, gloves, shields, and gowns as their supplies are critically low. Some ETBU nursing graduates reported they are down to only one or two N95 masks that they must attempt to clean and reuse.”

Blackburn said care packages were prepared for those healthcare workers.

Marshall native and mother of two Jordan Moore spent almost a month bent over her sewing machine, making hundreds of masks for community members in need that she has been giving away for free.

Moore said that the project started March 23 when she saw a number of requests online for people who know how to sew to start making masks, because supply was quickly running out.

“I saw them all over the place, but it was mostly just reposts on Facebook. I didn’t think much of it until a friend of mine that is a nurse messaged me, because she knows I can sew, and asked me to make her a mask,” Moore said.

Her friend told her in March that she was given one mask to wear per week, and that they had to keep them in a plastic bag in between shifts. That was when Moore started making masks.

She said that she spends the majority of her days sewing; only taking breaks for cooking and taking care of her children.

Moore said that the first night that she started sewing, she worked throughout the whole day and night and completed over 100 masks. Since then, she makes 10 to 30 masks a night, and places them outside for people to pick up as they are needed.

She said she has also done bulk orders for specific groups in need, including Longview Regional. Moore said that though she has lost count on how many masks she has made total, she knows that a number of the masks have ended up with nurses in the local hospital ER room, Devita in Henderson, local nursing homes and many more.

Moore said that she was even contacted by a nurse working in Oklahoma, a company in Austin and someone living in Glenrose.

“It’s not just nurses, though a lot of the people who contact me are nurses or work in health care. I also have people picking them up because they need them to go to Walmart or they work in a restaurant or a bunch of other things,” Moore said.

She said that her masks are free to anyone who wants or needs them, and that they are welcome to take as many as they need.

Moore said she uses social media, posting about once a day to let people know how many masks she’s making and when she will place them on her porch. She said she wakes up to 25 to 30 messages every morning in her inbox of people asking her for a mask.

She said that in each mask that she makes she adds a space for a filter to be added to the mask is someone were to choose to do so. Moore said this also allows nurses to use the cloth masks as extra protection with the masks they already use. Especially since Moore said her masks are machine washable.

Initially working her way through her scrap fabric, and headbands Moore said she had her husband purchase instead of being able to get elastic, she has now received a large amount of donations to assist her in continuing to make masks.

Moore said that people have sent fabric, money, headbands and rubber bands (which are good substitutes for elastic) to her house.

“It’s a little bit weird to wake up to money in my door or Amazon packages of supplies and I don’t know who any of this is from,” Moore said. “It’s not just people who can sew, and it’s not just me. Everyone is stepping up and helping out.”

She said that she didn’t feel like she was doing anything special or interesting, but instead was simply doing her part for the men and women out there every day helping to fight the virus.

“There are times that I get overwhelmed but I just think about all of the people that have to be out there every day and it makes me feel like I have a way to help. It’s my way of giving back and using my time and my skill to do something good,” Moore said.