WASKOM — As the world faces a new normal, having to wear protective gear against COVID-19, a group of Waskom seamstresses are doing their part, making as many face coverings as possible to help the community combat the spread of the vicious disease.

The group, “Waskom Masks for the Cause”, was formed by Sandra Gallegos, a retired nurse and wife of a retired Air Force officer.

“(We’re) sewing face coverings for those who ask ‘til supplies are gone,” said Gallegos, who has personally handmade about 60 free masks, so far.

She said the handmade face coverings are no match for personal protection equipment or N95 masks, but offers some support to those that want them.

“These are a last resort — something better than nothing,” said Gallegos.

Seeing a dire need, Gallegos, who dabbles in crafting as a hobby, decided to use her leftover material to make some face coverings.

“I had all this craft and hobby stuff. I said I can sew,” she said.

She’s been joined by fellow seamstresses, who are all devoting their quarantine time, making masks, to lend a helping hand.

“So many (are in need),” said Gallegos.

She particularly wanted to help the most vulnerable, such as the elderly, who are either ill, can’t sew for themselves, or are in need of a mask to use while shopping for essentials.

“I have older parents and we live in a neighborhood where a lot of elderly and these folks want to go to the store,” said Gallegos. “I’m like: ‘Ok, let’s make masks.”

“There are five of them in our area that are just making masks,” she said.

Sue Gardner and Linda Louton are among them.

“My neighbor across the street is a seamstress, too, and she made about 12 of them and brought them over to me,” Gallegos said of her neighbor, Mary. “Everybody’s trying.”

In demand

The ladies are also sewing, keeping every essential worker in mind — from the garbage collectors to the store clerks and medical workers.

“The doctor offices and therapists offices are asking for them,” said Gallegos. “We just supplied a doctor’s office.”

The handmade masks are in high demand with other businesses, too.

“I have, right now, an order for a trucking company in Marshall. She asked for 30,” Gallegos shared.

“I have a cleaning business in town that asked for 20,” she added.

Gallegos said many have made requests just by messaging her personal Facebook page or the group’s “Waskom Masks for the Cause” Facebook page.

“I just tell people come by here and pick them up,” said Gallegos. “Text me when you’re here; my daughter will run out with the package.”

She’s taken orders and inquiries from the local and surrounding areas including Bethany, Marshall, and Carthage and also as far away as Germany.

“We have a military family. I have some friends in Germany who are like if you get a chance, can you mail them over here,” said Gallegos.

Getting innovative

Gallegos said they’ve been grateful for the donations of supplies they’ve received to benefit the cause.

“People have donated material,” she said, sharing her parents’ neighbor donated a box of cloth the other day.

Others have donated elastic.

“I’ve had people donate bungee cords for elastic inside of it. I’ve had people donate rubber bands for around the ears like hair ties — just whatever,” Gallegos described. “I think it’s an amazing thing.”

And whenever she runs out of elastic, she just gets creative using anything from hair bands to shoe strings.

Being a crafter, Gallegos said she drew some inspiration from watching YouTube videos.

“I’m a crafter as it is. I saw some of the videos on YouTube. I started thinking about my friends,” she said.

A nurse of 23 years, she started thinking about her former coworkers at a Houston hospital that are still working.

“I came from Houston and used to work at a big hospital there,” said Gallegos. “My girlfriends still work there and said they were very short (of masks) and only people in direct contact of COVID-19 were getting the better masks.

“They were like can you mail us some if you’re making them,” said Gallegos. “It kind of hurt my heart. I was like when it gets down to it, if the nurses are having a hard time getting them, (then) I know people from the outside aren’t getting them.”

“Every time I go to the grocery store some have masks and some don’t because they’re not available,” she said.

Community effort

Gallegos said she and other members of Waskom Masks for a Cause will continue to sew as long as supplies last.

“I will do it until I run out,” she said.

She’s always believed in helping others.

“I think everybody has had a time in their life where they’ve had to have a helping hand,” said Gallegos. “And I’ve come from that mindset and I was raised that way, that if you’ve got the ability to serve, (then do so),” she said.

She’s thankful that it’s been a communitywide effort.

“The community did this,” said Gallegos. “It’s not just me. I really can’t stress enough how many people out there have done their part. I might be doing the sewing but what they can do, they do.

“I’m so proud of this community itself,” she said. “If they’ve got material, they donate. If they know somebody they say: ‘Can you help that lady out? She’s elderly and I worry about her.’ There’s a lot of community in this time. It shows.”