Caseworker makes masks to help keep residents safe

Caseworkers play a vital role in the lives of the children they serve at Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch. Making sure their children are successful, happy and safe is always a priority.

Caseworker Vanessa Detten has made sure the boys in Earl home are prepared to mask up for a new school year. She hand-sewed two face masks for each resident.

The young men have had other masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Detten thought it would be nice if they had some new face attire for the start of school.

“I designed the masks to be as comfortable as possible,” Detten said. “They are a one-size-fits-all. But, they do have a customizable tie feature so they will fit faces of all sizes. The boys were really excited about how they are made because they said not all masks they’ve been provided have fit them right.”

Rudy, 16, said he likes his new masks.

“They feel good and they look good,” he said, taking a spin to look in the mirror.

They make me feel like I am protected enough that I won’t have to worry about catching ‘The ’rona’.”

“I like the masks, and I like the fabric choices and how they are designed,” said Everett, 16.

Detten said she learned to sew as a child. She first learned to hand sew and then started using a machine in middle school. Her grandmother taught her in those early years. Now married, her mother-in-law is a quilter and has taught Detten some additional skills.

“I have 10 boys total, and I made two masks for each boy, so a total of 20 masks for the boys,” Detten said.

She explained that during the pandemic, she and her mother-in-law have been sewing masks.

“I have made at least 40 to 50 masks on my own, I’ve lost count, maybe more,” Detten said, “We’ve mailed them out to family and friends, and even some co-workers here have some of my masks.”

During recent weekends, the two seamstresses set up shop on the dining room table and knocked out the masks for the boys in Earl Home. All the masks were laundered and air dried.

“I asked some of the boys if they had any preferences for fabric colors,” Detten said. “They told me to pick whatever, as they trust me and know I have good style!”

When Detten showed up at the home to deliver the masks, it was a fun time. The young men were happy to see she had followed through and gotten them made. Only about half the boys knew she was making masks. For the other half, it was a total surprise.

“They all immediately wanted to try them on,” Detten laughed.

“I made each boy two different colors, and they put them both on to show me, and they were being silly. I also asked them to take a picture for me, and all of them were very willing to do that. They all thanked me as well,” she said.

Detten said she and the houseparents at Earl Home used her delivery of the gifts as an opportunity to talk to the boys about the importance of wearing a mask. Boys Ranch now mandates masks to be worn when social distancing isn’t possible.

“They know they must wear one, but I’m not sure if they fully understand why,” Detten said.

“I explained that since many of us travel from Amarillo to Boys Ranch to work, we don’t want to make them sick, or get others sick, and I think they get it now,” she said.

This labor of love by Detten, who has been a caseworker at Boys Ranch for three years, is just one more way she and her family serve the public. Her husband and brother-in-law are both EMTs and her father-in-law is a firefighter. The family lives in Dumas, Texas.

“They are all frontline workers and I see them every day doing something for everyone else, and I had a need to also do for others,” Detten said.

“I guess that is why I wanted to make masks,” Detten explained.

“I’ve used a talent of mine to help where I knew I could. I’ve always wanted to help others and that’s probably why I answered the call to become a social worker,” she said.

Detten said the pandemic, which has required that she work many days from home, was making her feel helpless. She is used to being at Boys Ranch, where she sees the boys in Earl Home on a daily basis.

She is now back working at Boys Ranch a couple days a week as the campus prepares to move forth into a more normal existence with the start of school. For Detten, making the masks for these young men at Boys Ranch, and others, has helped her become part of a proactive solution to the crises our world is facing.

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