Staying protected: Community members sew PPE face masks for high-risk personnel

Published 12:14 am Thursday, March 26, 2020

PORT NECHES — Mid-County residents Cindy Thomas and Sarah Elliot are combating the life threatening shortage of PPE face masks with needle and thread.

PPE stands for “personal protective equipment.”

Thomas, 57, is a master quilter, seamstress, embroiderer and owner of The Cottage: Quilting and Embroidery.

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“Seeing the need, and knowing there was a local need, and people I knew personally were affected by it, I felt like it was something I could do to help out,” Thomas said. “I can’t produce toilet paper, but I can produce masks.”

Cindy Thomas sews another PPE face mask in her home office to donate to nurses and individuals in the community.

Elliot, 21, was taking online cosmetology classes through Vista when she heard the calling.

Elliot saw an online post from a nurse saying they were allowing them to take masks people made from home.

“I did a little research and learned the best way to make the PPE face masks,” Elliot said. “I realized it wasn’t that difficult, so I decided to make some and contribute to society a little bit.”

Elliot started creating masks Friday. She has given more than 100 masks to nurses working at Medical Center of Southeast Texas in Port Arthur and Baptist Hospital in Beaumont.

The Nederland resident has also donated masks to patients with compromised immune systems and high-risk individuals in Mid-County.

“When I was in high school, I sewed a lot,” Elliot shrugged. “When I started this, I retaught myself. I’ve definitely had some trial and errors, but I finally got situated and am making more and more every day.”

In two days, Thomas has completed nearly 30 masks.

The Port Neches resident donated several to nurses and residents living in retirement homes, as well as others to family, friends and strangers.

Cindy Thomas, 57, concentrates on sewing a homemade PPE face masks Tuesday to donate to people in the community. (Cassandra Jenkins/The News)

“It’s very gratifying, because I sit here and I have so much fabric,” she said. “For me, it’s a hobby and a project. This is just one of those pure ways to give from your skill set, your God-given talent, and it’s very satisfying.

“I can’t start up a factory and mass produce, but if I can make a few here and there, and they are appreciated, it’s worth it.”

Elliot and Thomas are producing products from home. They use their own supplies or donated material.

Neither is turning a profit.

Elliott said she couldn’t bring herself to take advantage of the situation.

“I thought it would be a good idea to donate the masks simply because people need them,” she said. “I’ve been offered money, but just to see how thankful and excited people are, is worth it.”

Elliott said she is simply hoping to make a change.

“With the rise of confirmed cases, I hope by making these masks we can help nurses from catching it, help children and adults with compromised immune systems to not be scared to go out grocery shopping,” she said. “Anything helps, even a little bit.”

Thomas said she is often asked, “Why spend all this time sewing masks, if people are going to only use them once or twice and discard it?”

Her answer is simple: “Why not?”

“There are thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands, of people doing this across the nation,” she said. “If you are worried about where the mask goes, or what happens to it after it leaves your hands, you shouldn’t be doing this. If it helps out, even more a moment, it’s worth the time and effort.”

If interested in receiving a mask, or donating material, contact Elliot at 931-217-6673 or message Thomas on Facebook or Instagram.

To join the viral 100 Million Mask Challenge, videos on how to assemble essential PPE and surgical masks can be found on