COVID-19 Mission Team: Saving lives, one mask at a time

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 27, 2020

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LAPLACE — The COVID-19 Mission Team is dedicated to saving lives, one mask at a time.

The initiative started with a prayer and snowballed to engage volunteers in every corner of the community. More than 700 custom-made masks with HEPA filters have been donated to front line workers, medical facilities, businesses and individuals in the New Orleans region and beyond.

Reserve resident Crystal Jones said God placed a message on her heart in early March. Before the coronavirus was widespread in the community, Jones was called to purchase fabric and create facemasks.

Representatives of the VA Medical Center in New Orleans proudly wear their masks.

“I have worked on the front line. I am a nurse practitioner, and I know the importance of having PPE,” Jones said. “God inspired me. He told me to start making masks because there was going to be a shortage.”

Jones went to Facebook and talked about her mission to help healthcare providers. Immediately, her phone rang. District Attorney Bridget Dinvaut was on the other end, eager to join the mission.

“The DA and I purchased over $300 worth of supplies,” Jones said. “We solicited several seamstresses to help and they were pleased to be a part of the mission.”

Dolores Collins, Pauline Edwards, Emma “Betty” Morris, Jackie Forest, Donna Lambert Hofmann and Donna Grover were happy to lend their sewing talents.

St. John Councilwoman Tammy Houston, Dinvaut and her husband, Michael Saunders became the designated fabric cutters.

Working as a team, the volunteers constructed machine washable masks made with cotton fabric, HEPA filters and elastic ties.

According to Jones, the CDC recommends HEPA filters when N95 masks are not available because they provide an extra layer of protection. Even though it raised the costs of production, it was important to the COVID-19 Mission Team to protect healthcare workers using the highest quality materials.

Dinvaut said she and her husband worked more than six hours a day for 10 days straight to cut the fabric on hundreds on masks, sometimes staying up until the early hours of the morning. The project was a challenge in the beginning and got easier as time went on.

Members of the St. John Council on Aging thank Crystal Jones and the COVID-19 Mission Team for their donated masks.

“It was strictly from the heart. This started with two friends praying and trying to find a way to show love for our community and friends that were working at the hospital,” Dinvaut said.

“It was amazing just to see the spirit. We all wanted to be part of the solution instead of sitting idle. Not once did anybody say they didn’t have time. Not once did we get tired or grow weary. I think that spirit transcended every effort to make it a positive experience for everyone.”

The next step was to supply masks to providers and front line workers. The ever-expanding list of requests was overwhelming, so the Mission Team expanded to meet the community’s need.

Parish President Jaclyn Hotard, Paula Henderson, Erica Nicholas Cola, Melanie Burl, Bonnie Dinvaut and Tammy Williams Milioto joined the team. Soon, masks were being given away to hospitals, nursing homes, pastors, funeral homes and any worker who needed the extra protection. Audrey Alexis pitched in to provide soup for the workers and the elderly.

Many others have reached out to contribute finances or supplies.

Jones keeps a supply in her car and will hand out masks when she sees postal service workers or elderly people walking into stores without one.

“The needs were greater than we expected, but we have given out over 700 masks.  Our masks can be washed and used accordingly,” Jones said. “We are still making masking for front liners and their children. The recent calls have been from individuals, who need to protect themselves and their family members.”

The masks have come in many different patterns, but the signature color scheme for the COVID-19 Mission Team is red, white and black.

“Red is for the Blood of Jesus, white is for cleansing us from the virus, and black is for the lives that were lost as a result of this virus,” Jones said.

For more information, please contact Jones at 504-782-6558.

Facilities that received masks: St. John Council on Aging, St. John Community Action, DCI Dialysis Center of New Orleans, Twin Oaks Convalescent Home, St. Joseph Nursing Home, East Jefferson Medical Center, Maison Deville Nursing Home, Chateau Nursing Home Kenner, Ochsner Main Campus, Ochsner Baptist, Ochsner E-ICU, Ochsner Kenner, Lafayette General Hospital, New Orleans East Hospital, New Orleans Family Justice Center, University Medical Center, Baton Rouge General, Walgreens Staff on Esplanade Avenue, Walmart LaPlace Pharmacy Workers, CVS Staff Destrehan, New Orleans Convention Center Nursing Staff, Ochsner Home Health, Chateau St. James, Kaiser Permanente Nurses California, several pastors along with their family members, Front line workers locally and in New York, Dallas, Tx, North Carolina, Florida and Houston, Tx., Robottom Mortuary, Treasures of Life, Hobson Brown Mortuary, Bardell Mortuary, Professional Mortuary and Baloney Funeral Home.

COVID-19 Mission Team Contributors: D.A. Bridget Dinvaut Saunders, Michael Saunders, Crystal Jones, Latoya Creecy Stewart, Lahouma Snyder, Robin Anderson, Andrea Theodore, Tammy Houston, Shelecia Eugene, Tamu Jack Roybiske, Valerie Baloney Johnson, Kennette Bardell, Erica Nicholas Cola, Koi McGee Thompson, Jaune Thomas, Sherrrie Narcisse, Michelle Morris, Darlene Millet, Chere Hills, Victoria Snyder, Colette Baloney Coates, Stacey Millet, Audrey Alexis, Pastor Oscar and Kenyatte Nelson, Briana Pierre, Carla Marie, Charlie Roussell, Paula and Wendell Henderson, Emery Dents, Raven Pittman, Bonnie Dinvaut, Parish President Jaclyn Hotard, Myra T. Brown, Jada Fiffie, Lisa Anderson, Desi Jones, Lakeya Luke, Cheryl Pastor Gaines, Ornell Akachukwu, Tamara Moseman, Donna Grover, Clarissa Fayson, Tammy Sylvan, Velvet Bourgeois, Stephanie Aubert, Ryshique Williams, Trenese Smith, Jada Flowers, Danielle Johnson, Kiera Jones, Edith Farlough, Tracey Brown, Heidi Trosclair, Darcel Anderson James, Brenda Nicholas, Melanie Burl, Cheryl and Mark Entremont, Pastor Carla Ceaser Jones, Nesey Smith, Pastor Ferdinand Wallace, Mario Porter, Tanya Stevens, Delisa Brown, Tenita Smith, Shelia Brown, Keisha Brown, Kenyatta Brumfield, Galen and Debra Schum, Tammy and Timmy Milioto, Alvin Scioneaux, Marvin Perrilloux, Edward Scioneaux, Cynthia Collins Milton, Janique Dixon, Lajuanne Gant, Fancy Clark, Angelle Murray, Geri Baloney, Evan. Brenda Jerro, Cyntrall James, Karla Jones-Gipson, Colette Smith, Pastor Laurie Adams and Voices of Truth Fellowship, Terriyaka Alexander, Paulette Jones, Evelyn Sewell, Elisa Batiste, Hubert Robottom, Robottom Mortuary, Treasures of Life, Hobson Brown Mortuary, Bardell Mortuary, Professional Mortuary and Baloney Funeral Home.