(WSVN) - A South Florida schoolteacher and a Jo-Ann Fabrics employee joined forces to help some special needs students stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic.
With students back in school, health experts advise they wear masks while in class, but as Cutler Bay teacher Charlene Garcia-Ponce can attest, that’s easier said than done.
“They complain about the– it bothers them by the ear. They wear it for maybe two seconds, and then they pull it down,” she said.
Garcia-Ponce came up with an idea to help her special needs students keep track of their masks.
“I went to Jo-Ann [Fabrics] with this idea to do lanyards for the students to hang their masks around their necks,” she said. “I had the idea, but I wasn’t sure where exactly to get started.”
Enter Vanessa Griller, an employee with a generous nature at a nearby Jo-Ann Fabrics & Craft Store.
“When I told her it’s for kids, she started giving me all these nice ideas, these great ideas,” said Garcia-Ponce, “and I was like, ‘Oh, but I work with special needs [children]. It’s not really going to work with the beads, really nice, decorative lanyards.”
The solution? Sew them, but there was a problem.
“I’m not crafty in that sense. I don’t sew,” said Garcia-Ponce, “and then [Vanessa] just said, ‘OK, I got you, I’ll make them,’ and I’m like, ‘Great. How much?’ ‘Cause I thought, of course, I mean, she’s going to charge me, and she’s like, ‘No, no, no, don’t worry. I got you.'”
“I just decided to say, ‘Let me make them for you, ’cause, I don’t know, I’ve been making them for everybody else. What’s another set for kids who need it?'” said Griller.
It’s not the first time Griller has whipped up a set of masks. One of her family members is a nurse who had to wear masks for long periods of time.
“She would call her mom and say that they had to wear the same masks all the time, ’cause they were running out. There were none,” said Griller, “and when we heard, me and my mom heard that, we were like, ‘Since we’re stuck at home, and we’re so artsy, let’s just start making masks.'”
That’s just what they did.
“We started sending them to California. We sent them to family who are doctors in Texas, North Carolina,” said Griller. “We also sent them to my cousin’s special needs school in New Jersey.”
“So she did, and she actually made [masks] for me, my assistant, the teachers at the school and my students. All my students got a nice mask,” said Garcia-Ponce. “Oh, my God. It meant the world. I was so overjoyed. I still can’t believe that it happened to me.”
“It makes me so happy to know that I could help people, and not just take advantage of people and make money and all of that stuff. To know that, it helps,” said Griller as she fought back tears.
Garcia-Ponce said says the masks are a big hit with her students, and they’re working out great.
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