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Winter Texan 3 USE WEBWe all know Winter Texans contribute a great deal to the Rio Grande Valley during their winters with us. They often donate to local charities, help schools with school supplies, donate time to shelters and animal rescues, gather food during the holidays for people here and in Mexico, and they make quilts and other items for those in need.

This year has brought on a whole new need Winter Texans at Alamo Rec-Veh Park have been able to fill. A group of ladies that primarily made quilts before are now making masks.

In February and March when COVID-19 was still new and starting to shut things down, a group of women decided to shift gears. They started with a pattern and went from there. One member of the group has a relative that works in the nursing field and expressed the need for masks for patients and visitors. They originally sent her nearly 100 masks and continue to send more when the need arises. The group has now donated over of 1,000 handmade masks.

ARVP Manager Barbara Hamel said the ladies have done such a great job. They have taken a lot of their time to do this, she said. “It says a lot about these people.”

“We are lucky to have them on our side,” she continued. “They are always willing to jump in and help. They care about our people.”

The group, originally started with 16 and is now down to about six ladies on a good day, decided at the beginning that the masks were not going to be for sale. The masks were going to be given to those that needed them and places that needed them the most.

Even when some left, like most Winter Texans do, those that stayed carried the project on. These are residents that normally go home for the hot Texas summers.

Two of the current group are high risk – one is a cancer survivor and the other travels back and forth to Houston for her husband’s cancer treatments. They felt it would be safer for them to stay at the park. They also felt they could continue with the project and stay safe, keeping tables six feet apart or making the items in their own homes before gathering them together to send off.

The core group of ladies spearheading the work are Evelyn, Kathy, Peggy and Barb. There are a few others that join in and help where they can. They don their own masks when getting together to put the masks together.

“Everybody gives their time,” said one of the ladies.

Even if someone does not know how to sew, there is cutting, pinning, ironing, trimming and other things to do to get the masks togther.

Winter Texan Overhead 4 USE WEB“It’s a collaborative effort,” almost an assembly line style at times, said the ladies.

Today, the group mainly donates to the Vannie Cook Children’s Cancer Center, although if a request is made, they do try to fill it. Besides park residents, the group has also donated masks to Lynn Longview Nursing, McAllen Clinic Family, Alamo Heights Nursing Home, Gardens of Brook Ridge Nursing Home and other local nursing homes.

“They still need them, so we’re still making them,” said one participant.

Peggy said there is never any question each day on what she is going to do. It’s become a daily thing for her to work on and she is enjoying the time well spent.

“We have gotten to know more people,” said Evelyn. They have been able to meet people from the community that they have been able to donate to. They know people by name at the cancer center.

“We started something we knew nothing about,” said one of the ladies. Evelyn said they have learned to use different kinds of materials for ties – like T-shirts – and shop towels for filters.

They wanted to recognize that many people have contributed to their efforts. Whether sewing or not, all time and materials have been donated by members of the park. One park resident, Mrs. Opal Womack, has donated a lot of material and ties for the masks, said the ladies. She has done a lot to keep this going.

The ladies have enjoyed being able to find something to fill their time while still in the Valley. They have found fellowship and a simple way to give back to the community they love so much.

“It’s being able to give, that is the most rewarding,” said the ladies.