Some heroes wear masks, others make them


The COVID-19 pandemic has sparked stories of tragedy and uncertain emotions and feelings. But it has also seen unlikely heroes rise to the occasion, from first responders to those on the front lines of the war on the virus and those who have turned their time staying at home into positive action for others.

A former student who is a nurse at Mansfield Methodist Hospital asked Jane Herring if she might be able to make a mask for work. The Quitman ISD board member and retired educator went to work immediately. What began as just a few masks only weeks ago has turned into over 700 made by Herring in her home.

Herring started making the masks in March and giving them away.

“Some of the kids I have taught and some of their mothers who are nurses and work in healthcare were on Facebook pleading for masks because they were getting only one mask a day,” Herring said. “I hadn’t sewed in about 30 years, but I got on YouTube and looked at how to make the masks. I got out in my store room and started looking for materials. I made some samples and sent some to one of my students who works at Mansfield Methodist. I started making masks on March 16.”

The word got out and Herring heard from Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith.

“I taught Sheriff Smith’s kids. He needed masks for his jail workers. Noel Martin came by and picked up 50. I sent about 50 to the hospital in Mansfield and a large nursing home in Texarkana,” Herring noted. 

Herring went to Facebook and asked for help getting materials. “People brought me elastic and bags to put the masks in. People have been helping me out,” Herring added.

Herring continues to practice social distancing. For local people, Herring places masks in a paper bag and leaves them tied to the gate at her back yard.

“One of my military kids is up in Chicago and couldn’t get any masks, so I sent some up there. One local church wanted some masks for those who might come to a service and did not have one,” Herring remarked. “Anybody that needed a mask, I made them one and I still have some.”

Besides being patriotic, Herring had a sentimental reason for making the masks.

“My Daddy’s mother died on November 11, 1918, the day World War I ended. She died with that Spanish Flu,” Herring recalled. “I did this to honor her, Jessica Elizabeth McCullough. She is buried up at Blossom up near Paris.”

Also from Quitman, Jan Peek decided her daughter, who works in an office at Texas Spine and Joint Hospital in Tyler, needed masks to wear at work.

“She has an office, but she goes all over the hospital and I wanted to make sure she had some masks,” Peek said. “When I made some and she carried some over there. I guess now I have made over 400 masks for that hospital alone.”

The word got out about Peek’s talent and she was contacted by a dentist in Gun Barrel City in the Cedar Creek Lake area.

“This dentist called and I don’t remember his name, but I made some for him too,” Peek said. “I have sent some with Stacy Teaff for the hospital where she works and I sent some more with Rene Gilbreath who works at UT Health in Tyler.”

Peek has also had people come by locally.

“I have made several for folks around here where I live. They would wear one and somebody would see it and they would want one. I didn’t charge for them. I had some donations. It’s kind of slowed down, but I sent some more with my daughter just the other day,” Peek observed. “I still have some here and if anybody wants one they can come by and get one.”

Without leaving their homes, Herring and Peek have answered the call to serve their country by providing over 1,000 face masks where they are needed. They have done it on their own time and their own dime.

These two ladies are heroes too!