Emily Anne Gammon and her family members are stitching together help and hope as they provide masks to people on the front lines of the new Coronavirus pandemic.
"I would really consider myself a helper in most situations. It is my nature. My first thought is typically what can I do," she said.
Emily's mother, Peggy Speer, owns The Village Floral & Gifts on Kings Highway and with their supply of flowers soon to end, they are adapting to what people want and need now.
They set up a new pattern of business: bringing their sewing machines in the shop to help others.
The plan was set into motion last Saturday when Peggy was hoping for a relaxing morning, but instead got a call from her daughter.
"I grew up under the counter of a sewing machine because my mother is a seamstress," Emily said. "Coincidentally, she is my next door neighbor. I called her and said, 'I hope you are up, we got business to do.' We just got after itI put it on Facebook."Gallery: Serging ahead: Texarkana mother and daughter sew and donate masks to help meet the need
By 8 p.m. Thursday, they had sewn 527 masks and were working to finish another 35 before the night ended. The masks are free.
Their story first appeared on the Gazette's website and social media platforms late Wednesday. It's been full steam ahead since, Emily said.
"We have had the phone ringing off the hook. I'm actually sewing as we speak," Gammon said Thursday night. "We have been taking orders nonstop We are working through people's requests as fast as we can. It's awesome."
The masks are free.
Emily and Peggy started with 25 yards of fabric they had left over from different projects.
"We also had people dropping fabric off on our front porch, probably another good 25 yards," Emily said.
The demand for the masks have been overwhelming.
"We have taken over 300 orders for masks from people all over the country. We are giving them out as fast as we can make them. People are ordering them," Emily said.
They have shipped masks as far as Pittsburg, Pennsylvania and Kentucky.
People who cannot sew have also been helping by donating money.
"Another good portion of that money has been for shipping. We did not charge for that either," Emily said.
Some of their best customers have been individual nurses ordering them.
"The second largest group of people are secondary medical like pharmacies, eye doctors and chiropractors. It's people who had the correct N-95 masks but pushed those to the hospitals," Emily said. "We have even had grocery store employees, EMTs and firefighters order them."
As a way to help, some suggested buying groceries for people. But Emily felt discouraged as she knew with small children at home, that would not be her way to help.
Then, she started seeing her nurse friends posting about using bandanas as masks and then the second wave of posts came.
"It was kind of an outcry of if you can please sew some masks," Emily said.
She saw photos of people using paper towels, lawn mower masks or coffee filters for respiratory protection.
The masks made by Emily and Peggy have a unique feature.
"There is a little pocket on our masks so you can stick a filter in. You could even put a mask on and then put ours on top of it," Emily said.
Patterns include American flag, which makes Peggy think of Rosie the Riveter and a call to action for the country, polka dots, florals and maps.
The venture is a family affair as Peggy's and Emily's husbands help by ironing the masks before they are picked up or shipped.
Peggy says she and Emily bought up most of town's supply of the thin, flat elastic to make the masks.
"When we run out of elastic, we will just make them with ties," she said.
The family holds fast to their faith, positive thoughts and firm belief in God and helping others.
Emily said she is reminded of Mister Rogers' sentiment of when everything is scary look for the helpers.
That applies to this or any endeavor.
"It has been encouraging to look for the helpers. Anyone can be a helper. You have to look and see what is the best way," she said.
Monetary donations are being accepted to help defray shipping costs. To help, visit The Village Floral & Gifts at 997 N. Kings Highway or call 903-280-7071.
Masks can even be picked up at the shop by driving up and honking.
"We will bring them to your car," Emily said.
(See Friday's print edition for more photos.)