Four mornings a week, you can find sisters KaTina Whitfield and Christina Sowells in front of a grocery store in Mesquite or Garland, giving away new surgical face masks.
“To us, it was simple and logical," Whitfield said. "We saw that people needed them and couldn’t access them and we had access to them."
When the pandemic hit North Texas, Whitfield said she struggled to find face coverings. Masks were in short supply and even the materials to make them were hard to find.
Three weeks ago, she said she saw a seller online, selling masks at a profit. The sisters decided to buy the masks and give them away for free.
“In the beginning, we were paying maybe four times the amount they normally cost, but it was necessary,” Whitfield said. “I felt it was necessary.”
The sisters focused their efforts on people going to the grocery store.
“It’s essential, that’s where most people go. You’ll meet the most people, you’ll be able to reach the most people there,” Sowells said.
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“It just blossomed from there, my sister started getting messages from different people wanting to know if we could go to different stores and if we had more masks available,” Whitfield said. “She would call me every 15 minutes with a different store that we would need to stand in front of.”
The sisters post their locations on Facebook, often spending about an hour at each location to distribute the masks. They said they wear gloves and carefully handle the masks by their strings to avoid touching them.
Whitfield, a Dallas County Justice of the Peace, and Sowells, a paralegal, estimated they’ve given away between $600 and $700 worth of masks. They said they’d continue to donate them as long as they’re needed.
“We’re hoping that if more people see us out here doing it, that it will inspire more people,” Sowells said. “Kind of paying it forward and doing what you can to help. We’re all affected by this.”
“We’re contributing to the health of our community,” Whitfield said. “It’s just the smiles that we get or the thank you that we get when somebody sees that we are giving you a mask.”