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Pasadena teacher trades homemade face masks for disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer for her classroom

Jennifer Bland needs help with hard-to-find items to disinfect her classroom. After failing to find supplies on her own, she's using Nextdoor to exchange goods.

PEARLAND, Texas — No doubt the fall school semester is top of mind for families right now. As school districts consider options, teachers are focusing on preparing their classrooms.

Normally, teachers spend the summer looking for deals on traditional school supplies like pencils and notebooks. But this year, at least one teacher is desperate for help with disinfecting products that she's trading homemade face masks for supplies.

Jennifer Bland is a social studies teacher at a Pasadena high school. She admits she is worried about teaching students in the classroom, but she's choosing to focus on the positive: preparing her classroom and her students for the safest in-school experience.

"As U.S. History teachers, we’re always thinking about how we can relate it to past events to make it relevant to students," Bland said. "I kept remembering World War II, where everyone was like, what can I do to help out with the home front? They were knitting socks in WWII. I’m making masks in 2020. And I figured I can help out my community and my community can help out my students."

Bland's sister, Catherine Moore, stepped in to help. She created a brand for the masks: "Texas Sewing Sisters."

They posted on Nextdoor last month offering handmade face masks in exchange for disinfecting wipes, tissue or hand sanitizer.

Credit: Catherine Moore

They've traded with dozens of neighbors.

"And then we did get stories from people who said, 'I don’t have anything to trade, but I could really use two masks just so I can go talk a walk and feel safe,'" Moore said.

"And that was the whole point of this, was to try to help out other people," Bland said.

The sisters have received about a dozen canisters of disinfecting wipes, more than a dozen bottles of hand sanitizer, paper products and some traditional school supplies like crayons and pens.

"I feel like I’m going to cry," said Moore before she began to cry. "I’m just nervous about my sister going back to work and being safe. And we get those responses that say thank you for doing what you do. I just want her to be safe, not only her to be safe, I want any educator out there to go to work and feel safe and protected."

Bland hopes to get enough supplies so she can share with her fellow teachers. She's also sewing extra masks to give to her students, in case they come to school without one. 

"It's when we all do our part to help out, is what I think helps us overcome these difficult times," Bland said. "Because when we get past it and we look back, like, look how we came together. How our neighbors were there for us."

Shoutout to neighbor Dana Morrison for sharing this story with reporter Melissa Correa on Nextdoor. Click here to connect with Melissa on Nextdoor.

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