Artlcle written and published by the Daily Iberian Newspaper on May 3, 2020
The line of cars stretched from the bus lane at New Iberia Senior High School out onto Admiral Doyle Drive, then snaked down the road toward Jeanerette for the better part of a mile, stretching past the railroad tracks Saturday morning. At the head of the line, a single white folding table was set up with a clear plastic Sterilite storage tote on it, filled with 900 white cotton face masks. Three volunteers were already sorting the masks into bundles of five, waiting for 8:30 a.m. so the distribution of the masks could begin. “When I looked, the line was past Bayard Street,” said Mike Wattigny, one of the volunteers helping to shepherd cars past the distribution point. The cloth masks were provided to parishes across Louisiana through a donation from Hanesbrand Inc. The company retrofitted many of its factories in order to make facemasks to help combat the spread of the virus. The parish received 33,000 of the masks, which were parceled out to various first responders and non-profits. Additionally, each council member received 300 masks to pass out in their districts. Three council members — District 6 Councilwoman Natalie Broussard, District 7 Councilman Paul G. Landry and District 8 Councilman Brad Davis — decided to pool their masks and set up one distribution event. “I sent an email out to the group, and we thought it was a good idea,” Broussard said. As the organizer, Broussard was the point person of the operation, taking the masks and handing them to drivers as they made their way through the bus lane. It didn’t take long. After 30 minutes, the masks were gone. Almost 200 cars had made it through the distribution point before the masks ran out. The line of cars along Admiral Doyle still stretched toward the horizon even as Wattigny began waving them off. Other council members have reached out to constituents through social media to get their portion of the masks to the community. Even after parsing out masks, the parish administration still has 2,300 on hand for high-risk individuals in need.
Dwayne Fatherree is the community editor for The Daily Iberian. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.