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Port Arthur women create 1,000-plus headbands for tired nurses, 1st responders

With the help of family, friends and neighbors, Aleli Martinez has sewn more than a 1,000 headbands for tired nurses and first responders on the front line fighting to beat COVID-19.

Martinez, 27, started creating headbands last week that serve as a barrier between abrasive surgical masks and direct skin.

“We had so many nurses and professionals coming home with their ears cracked from the back,” Martinez said. “These nurses and healthcare professionals are working 24/7 and when they come home, their ears are cracked and they have red lines welling from wearing masks and goggles all day. So we decided to make some headbands to ease that pain.”

Martinez recruited her older sister, Jazmin Lomeli, to help. Four other women and her father showed up as well.

Aleli Martinez sews headbands at her Port Arthur home.

“We all started getting together every day from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. to make these headbands,” Lomeli said. “We have nurses coming from Winnie to St. Elizabeth and Baptist Hospital in Beaumont, nursing homes and more. We work all day, even in the rain. We just want to help in anyway we can.”

Martinez and her sister eventually created a Facebook post advertising the headbands.

The allure attracted hospitals in need from San Antonio, Louisiana, California, New York and other virus hotspots requesting shipped material.

“The word started spreading,” Martinez said. “We started getting messages from hospitals around the nation asking if we’d be willing to ship material. So while it started local, it’s spread around the country.”

The headbands are made outside of Martinez’s home in Port Arthur, where a table is spread for local drive-by pickup.

Alma Sanchez, left, and Norma Alvarez, right, sew buttons on headbands.

All headbands are donated, although a GoFundMe Account is set up for anyone wanting to donate money or material to the cause.

In one week, the seven women made and gave away 1,300 headbands. By Monday at noon, they had sewn more than 600.

Martinez said she wouldn’t have been able to do so many without the help of family, children and neighbors.

“We’re here from morning till night,” she said. “We have nurses come at 6:30 in the morning and in between shifts to pick the headbands up. We try to do it as fast as we can.”

The headbands come in different styles, designs and materials. Unisex and neutral items are available.

Martinez said the response from the healthcare community is overwhelming.

Aleli Martinez, Martha Mungula, Juanita Rodriguez, Alma Sanchez and Norma Alvarez sew headbands to donate to healthcare professionals and first responders.

“These nurses are working 12- to 24-hour shifts and they have to wear those uncomfortable masks the whole day,” she said. “It hurts their ears, so to have these headbands be a barrier, it’s a big relief.”

Lomeli said they receive plenty of messages requesting headbands, but also many more thanking them for their service.

It’s the only thing keeping them going.

“We were going to stop after a week,” Lomeli said. “Most of our husbands got laid off and we just couldn’t keep up financially, but we were getting so many inspirational messages asking about it that we just couldn’t stop.”

More than 600 headbands are laid out for pickup.

One such message came from Cecilia Pompa-Orantes requesting a pink headband for a colleague recovering from breast cancer. She is still fighting COVID-19 while in remission.

Martinez said that one message alone, made them persevere.

“We immediately went to Hobby Lobby for pink material,” she said. “When we told the store manager, they even sewed a pink ribbon on the back of her headband. It’s stories like that, that we continue to sew these everyday, rain or shine.”

Headbands can be picked up at 3966 15th St. in Port Arthur.

Community members are asked to follow social distancing guidelines when picking up material. New headbands are distributed every few hours.

For special requests, contact Aleli Martinez on Facebook.

(Editor’s note: Do you know someone in the community doing something extra to help out in response to COVID-19? Send an email tip to panews@panews.com so we can get that person or organization recognized.)