In March of 2020, when Gadsden County began to feel the impact of COVID-19, two Chattahoochee sisters rose to the occasion.
Linda Martin and Ann Wakefield began meeting every Friday to giveaway masks they had sewn.
The sisters asked nothing in return for their free masks, but instead provided a glass jar for tips – should anyone be able and obliged.
From small children’s masks to masks large enough to fit over a bearded man’s face, the sisters provided six different sizes and a range of colors.
According to Martin and Wakefield, they began sewing masks for their family after three of their siblings needed face masks to continue working safely; the three siblings were employed in correctional facilities and hospitals in Florida (including one in Chattahoochee’s Florida State Hospital) and the shortage of throw-away masks left Wakefield and Martin’s siblings defenseless against the illness.
Martin says that despite the need for masks in the close-proximity hospital or correctional facility environments, their siblings were not being provided with masks, and there was a critical shortage of personal protective equipment.
After sewing masks for their siblings, Martin and Wakefield began to receive requests for masks from the facilities where their brother and sisters worked, and the demand only grew from there.
Noticing a lack of masks in the community, Linda Martin and Ann Wakefield decided to sew and offer masks free-of-charge to anyone who required them, and began to set up a booth under a canopy in Chattahoochee’s downtown district.
Every Friday, the sisters laid out their assortment of masks for that week, and Martin said that people from as far away as Tallahassee drove out to Chattahoochee to receive free masks from the sisters during the initial wave of COVID-19 in 2020.
Eventually, due to the heat of summer, Martin and Wakefield moved their mask giveaway indoors to the recreation center on Chattahoochee’s Oak Street, and continued to give away masks.
March 2021 marked the one-year anniversary of the giveaway project, and the sisters say they believe they have given away “well over” 2,000 masks during that year.
“We just stopped counting sometime last year,” said Wakefield.
Almost every Friday, the sisters were present at the recreation center, offering free masks to anyone who stopped by – but all good things must eventually come to an end.
Friday, April 16 was the final mask giveaway offered by the two sisters.
Both Martin and Wakefield agreed that the demand for masks has slowed significantly – although they agree that it is probably a good thing.
On April 16, the two sisters set up their remaining amount of colorful masks, offering them to anyone who stopped in; the remaining masks left over at the end of the day, Wakefield said, would be donated to the Chattahoochee Elementary School for the staff to distribute as needed.
Ashley Hunter – firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Ashley Hunter