Natchitoches Tribe Volunteers Protect Vulnerable Communities with Homemade Masks

by Audra Almond-Harvey
Tribal Reporter, Natchitoches Tribe of Louisiana

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” – Fred Rogers

The Covid 19 outbreak has profoundly affected every aspect of our society. Many are struggling to stay safe in their residences or their essential workplaces. Residents, patients, and healthcare workers in hospitals and nursing homes are among the most vulnerable communities in this pandemic.

But as Mister Rogers tells us, there are always people willing to help in a crisis. Seeing the shortage of personal protective equipment, and recognizing the needs of their community members, members of the Natchitoches Tribe of Louisiana began helping by making masks for members in need and the Sabine Retirement and Rehabilitation Nursing Home in Many, La.

Donna Brown, a member of the tribe and a nurse, tells us, “We saw a need for medical staff and people who are immunocompromised to have a mask to protect themselves. Members stepped up to partner with groups such as the American Legion and Natchitoches PEO to make it happen and try to help our community and surrounding areas.”

Brown, Tina Cielatka (American Legion, 5th district commander), and tribal member Angie Colwell worked together to organize the volunteers. Colwell assisted the Natchitoches PEO Chapter BK (the local chapter of The Philanthropic Educational Organization) in making masks. Masks were donated to local Natchitoches doctor’s offices, the Northwestern Cancer Center, the Natchitoches Regional Medical Center, cancer patients, and other individuals in the community. Volunteers sewed over 300 masks working from homes in Natchitoches and Rayville, Louisiana; Las Vegas, Nevada; and Kennesaw, Georgia. The volunteers provided materials and sewing machines, and donated money to cover shipping costs when needed.

Volunteers included Donna (Desadier) Brown-NTL, Marcie (Rachal) Kirkham-NTL, Natchitoches PEO Chapter BK members: Susan Barron, Joelle Evans, Rebecca Morgan, Jessie Parr (P.E.O Chapter BG) , Alexandria (Desadier) Brown-NTL, Reno (Rachal) Kirkham-NTL, Angie Desadier Colwell-NTL, Lisee (Rachal) Kirkham-NTL, Kasia Cielatka, Mindy Carroll, Tina Cielatka (American Legion 5th District Commander), and Hannah Browne (wife of tribe member David Browne of Desadier line)-NTL.

The CDC now recommends that everyone wears cloth masks in public settings where social distancing is challenging to maintain. The Natchitoches Tribe members used the instructions found at https://www.craftpassion.com/face-mask-sewing-pattern/ to make cloth masks that have room for filter materials.

Brown also states, “I was surprised at how willing members were even from out of state to get to sewing and donating to the local people in need. I loved seeing how grateful the people we helped were, and how excited they were to get a mask in this outbreak to try and protect themselves.” Tribal members and their partnering groups are continuing to make masks to serve as many people as possible.