By Daisey Martinez
CHOCTAW – “The Choctaw people believe that when you have a skill or a gift, you give it to another person in the family, and I believe [my grandmother] gave that [gift of sewing] to me, Kaylee and Michelle.” Tina Routh, her daughter Kaylee Routh, cousin Michelle Hickman, and friend Gwendolyn Hickman have, so far, made over 4,536 face masks. They average about 100 masks per day.
This project began around mid-March when these kind-hearted women noticed a need for masks around their community. At first, they were only distributing to family and friends, but then their little project grew. They have been providing masks to different departments throughout the Reservation and the Choctaw Health Center which has had the most need for masks. They also send masks to other people who live on different Reservations and to tribal members who live out-of-state.
These incredible women do what they do as they have had many of their loved ones pass away during this pandemic. As tribe members, they know it is important to stand up and to give back when there is a need.
They thank God for the gifts and opportunities they have been given to help other members of the Body of Christ. They are also thankful for Father Bob Goodyear who has always shown his love and support for the Choctaw people.
“We don’t need to think of ourselves; we need to think of others,” Gwendolyn shared and continued, “when Tina and Michelle asked me to help, I thought of my own mom and how I would want her protected and how I want other tribal members to be protected as well.” Gwendolyn credits her grandparents, who were deacons, for her way of thinking.
Kaylee, an upcoming senior at the University of Southern Mississippi, shared her reason for being a part of this project, “I saw the need for masks in my community, especially for our elders, and rather than just sit around all day, which is what I was doing once school was out, I chose to do something productive that could benefit my people. I view our elders as teachers to my people; therefore, anything I could do to protect their health, I was more than willing to do.”
Tina, Michelle, and Kaylee are Catholic, and Gwendolyn is Baptist. They joke about how they do not hold that against her. It is a beautiful thing when people can come together for a great cause. They focus on their common goal of wanting to serve others around them. During these divisive times, it is wonderful to see unity at work. These women are truly living out 1 Peter 4:10: “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another as good stewards of God’s varied grace.”
Michelle, Gwendolyn, and Tina purchased much of the material using their own funds, but have also received donations from others, even from people out of state. This positive feedback really amazed and further motivated these ladies.
They are always accepting donations to help in continuing the effort to keep others safe, so if you would like to donate material such as fabric, thread, and elastic, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.