Mateo Gavilanes spent more than two decades perfecting his skills as a tailor in Mexico. But when an opportunity to come to the United States presented itself almost 20 years ago, he decided to make the move.
He has been a maintenance technician at Vista del Monte ever since, with only limited opportunities to practice his former trade. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit earlier this year, this big-hearted man with extraordinary skills took the initiative and sewed more than 700 cloth masks for his Vista colleagues and residents.
"I had the ability as a tailor to make the masks so I decided it was the right thing to do," Mateo said. "I knew at the time, there was a shortage of masks so I wanted to do something for my co-workers."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends, during the pandemic, that people wear face coverings in public settings and when around people who don't live in the same household.
Working at a retirement community, with residents who may be at high-risk for COVID-19, makes staff extra vigilant about following established protocols.
Mateo found a mask pattern on the Internet. He received fabric donations from residents, colleagues and others, as well as using any extra fabric Vista had on hand. The result were comfortable, colorful, breathable and reusable masks made from cotton or cotton blends, for anyone who needs them.
"Any spare time I had I would sew the masks," Mateo said. "I want to help keep people safe and make sure anyone who wanted them could have one."
As soon as masks became more readily available, Mateo donated extras to the community's Corner Store, the on-campus resident sundry shop. The store sells the masks with proceeds benefiting the FACT Foundation, Vista del Monte's philanthropic partner that supports the resident assistance fund and other philanthropic funds.