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Southwest Florida Face Mask Crew provides masks for Immokalee community

By PAULETTE LeBLANC - | Aug 6, 2020

Photo provided by Nancy Cote The Southwest Florida Face Mask Crew recently distributed masks in Immokalee.

A group of mostly Pine Islanders recently provided 1,060 masks to workers and residents of Immokalee. Nancy Cote of the Southwest Florida Face Mask Crew calculated that 400 masks went to the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, 300 to the Grass Roots Movement of Immokalee, 300 to Saint Matthews Friendship House shelter, along with another 60 masks given away to produce workers and staff at La Marketa, which is an outdoor market place.

“We are a group of community social workers, healthcare workers and community members who work closely with the organization, Internacional de Latinos en el Exterior,” said Cote. “Although most of the masks were made by island community sewers and cutters.”

According to Cote, only three contributors were working off-island to make this event happen. After the July 3 give-away event, which took place in the parking lot of Winn-Dixie on the island, enough money was collected via donations to purchase fabric and supplies needed to supply masks to various members of the Immokalee community. Saint Matthews has remained open, despite the fact that many shelters have had to turn people away because they’re full, Cote said, adding that people from the island often end up at Saint Matthews.

“Most of the funds that come in are simply put back out into making masks,” said Cote, “as many of the islanders are concerned about what they’re seeing on the island and then they saw how Immokalee quickly became a hot spot. Most of the people taking on this project are retired healthcare workers or social service workers who really just wanted to get out there and help.”

Part of the credit, said Cote, goes to Alice Sherwood, an off-island sewer, who made 450 of the masks on her own, as well as an anonymous donor from Pine Island who provided gas money to get to Immokalee as well as 100 buffs (breathable face shields).

Future plans for the group include downtown Fort Myers and the Dunbar area.

“As the numbers go up on the island, we want to try to reach everyone,” said Cote. “We’ve reached out to schools to see if the kids need masks. We are always available to islanders and healthcare workers as well as social service workers and restaurant workers.”

Cote said the group is very thankful that islanders are continuing to take it upon themselves to make masks and reminds everyone that if they are in need of a mask, they can reach out to the Southwest Florida Face Mask Crew on their Facebook page. She said although they will likely do another island face mask give-away soon, their plan for now will be to focus on downtown Fort Myers and Dunbar.

“Over 1,000 masks made by 14 islanders and three off-islanders,” Cote said. “It’s mostly the island helping out in any way they can. For some people, all they can do is iron and cut, so that’s what they did, but every bit helped.”

Those who helped on the project included: Mary Ryan, Melanie Hoff, Ellen Ballard, Silvia Rodriguez, Jessi Lara, Annie Wenz, Pam Young, Isabel Francis, Lucy Garcia, Theresa Fonseca, Gina Hernandez, Alice Sherwood, Maria Vergara, Zan Lombardo, Mary Jo Roane, Susan Jacoby McGuire, Pat Sullivan and Christi Botcherby.

When the crew first began making masks, it had a number of drop-off locations for materials, including in Cape Coral.