Thousands of masks & face shields given to St. John residents

Published 5:28 am Wednesday, August 5, 2020

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LAPLACE —As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in St. John Parish, an estimated 650 families were blessed with face mask and shield donations during Saturday’s giveaway event at New Wine Christian Fellowship in LaPlace.

The giveaway was organized by grassroots organization Together Louisiana in collaboration with Governor JohnBel Edwards’ Office. Local organizers became involved in the effort out of love for their St. John the Baptist Parish community.

Lynn Tran of Perfect Nails & Day Spa on Belle Terre Boulevard contributed 2,000 face shields to this event. According to organizers, 500 of the face shields were set aside and reserved for teachers who are embarking on a new and uncertain school year.

Tran initially contacted St. John Councilwoman Tammy Houston to ask where she could donate the face shields. An opportunity arose when Councilwoman Houston learned her aunt, Annette Houston, was helping coordinate the state-sponsored 5,000-mask giveaway.

During Saturday’s drive-thru event, each vehicle received a pack of five cloth face masks and one face shield as supplies lasted. This was the first government-sponsored mask giveaway since the spring, according to Councilwoman Houston.

The need has become more prevalent in the past month. Since July 11, St. John Parish has been under a mandatory mask mandate in public spaces to combat the community spread of COVID-19.

Houston, Tyra Griffin-Duhe, Warren “Bosco” Torres and Tonia Schnyder of the St. John Parish Council volunteered during the event. Environmental advocate Bo James and Elizabeth Leatherwood of St. John Parish Schools were among the volunteers who made the event successful. Members of the U.S. Census Bureau were also on hand to distribute informational flyers during the giveaway.

Annette Houston thanked New Wine Christian Fellowship for allowing use of their property. She was also grateful to the St. John Parish Sheriff’s Office deputies who showed a high degree of professionalism while directing traffic during the event.

“I was happy about the turnout. You could tell as the people were passing through that they were very grateful for the effort and being able to receive masks and face shields,” Annette Houston said. “Besides serving the public, one of the most rewarding things, for me personally, was seeing my granddaughter have an opportunity to participate in this.”

Abrea Houston-Baker, 12, learned firsthand what it means to serve the community during a time of need. Councilwoman Houston said it was clear from the smile on the young girl’s face that she knew the importance of her actions. Those smiles were reflected on the faces of community members who participated in the giveaway.

“Most of the participants who came by to pick up masks or shields let us know that they appreciated our efforts,” Councilwoman Houston said. “I received so many calls from people asking if they could pick up masks. We used the resources available to us to get the word out. I thought the participation was great for the small amount of time we had to get the message out.”

The mask giveaway was advertised on social media, at the St. John Parish Council meeting and in various St. John Parish churches. In the event that any future mask giveaways are scheduled, Councilwoman Houston plans to relay the message via the government access channel and St. John Parish Communications.

As a former educator who taught for nearly 40 years in the St. John Parish School System, Annette Houston was also grateful to see 500 face shields go to local teachers.

“Right now, there’s a lot of uncertainty as to what’s going to happen in the schools. I’m a former educator, so it’s near and dear to my heart that efforts are made to make certain that all of the employees and all of the students have the opportunity to receive another step toward safety and saving lives in the school system,” she said. “Teachers work hard and tirelessly to help their students. Students also come in contact with secretaries, janitors, principals and assistant principals. Anything that we can do to help, we will.”