With plenty of fabric and desire to serve her community, Texas State alumna Hillary Kotwal raises money for Bobcat Bounty through proceeds made from selling handmade cloth face masks.
Kotwal, a stay-at-home mother of two and consulting dietician, graduated from Texas State in 2013 with a B.S. in food and nutrition and later received a graduate degree in human nutrition in 2015.
After a friend sent her a tutorial on how to create cloth masks, Kotwal said she finally found a use for the sewing machine she was previously gifted and began creating masks.
Initially, Kotwal said the face masks were created to protect her family, but after the demand for masks increased, Kotwal began creating and selling them with the intent of giving the proceeds to Bobcat Bounty, Texas State’s student-organized food pantry. The pantry partners with the Hays County Food Bank to ensure students have access to free food and additional resources on campus. Kotwal has created nearly 300 masks and raised $500.
“I was taught early on [that] when you have enough, you give back to people,” Kotwal said. “I think it is important especially with what is going on in the world to put some good out there.”
Kotwal said she recognized the hardships and drastic changes college students were enduring—unemployment, loss of income and home loss—and decided to donate the proceeds to Bobcat Bounty because of the dedication and compassion they have shown to the San Marcos community.
“I just wanted to be a part of some type of solution,” Kotwal said. “Thankfully, I feel comfortable where [my family is]. We have food on our table, and I knew there were a lot of families struggling; people had lost their jobs, [and] I just wanted to give back to something that gave me so much.”
Kotwal’s face masks gained popularity after extended family members spread the word to their friends. With the shortage of protective supplies and materials available in stores, March and April were her busiest months—and she was happy to be able to lend a helping hand.
Bobcat Bounty has worked throughout the summer to accommodate its operations for those in need during the COVID-19 pandemic when food and other resources may be difficult to come by. Kotwal’s contributions have served as another tool for the organization to assist those in need.
Kelsey Walling, human nutrition graduate student and graduate research assistant for Bobcat Bounty, said she is inspired by Kotwal’s compassion for providing safety wear for individuals and the dedication she has shown to helping increase food supply during a difficult time.
“Hillary’s contribution is a wonderful initiative,” Walling said. “First of all, masks are so necessary and they may become more necessary each and every day. It’s amazing that she is able to give that good to others and then receive funds that are directly going to a food pantry, especially one from the school she attended.”
Due to rising cases of COVID-19, some San Marcos residents and students are fearful of entering crowded grocery stores. Kotwal’s dedication to Bobcat Bounty has offered many an alternative to grocery shopping.
Mary Reed, Bobcat Bounty intern and nutrition senior, said Kotwal’s contributions to the organization have eased anxieties concerning COVID-19 by decreasing food insecurity and providing an accessible method for students to attain groceries on a weekly basis.
“[Hillary’s contributions] have helped a lot,” Reed said. “We have been able to create what [Bobcat Bounty] is calling ‘pantry packs’, and with those, we have been able to basically put together a lot of shelf-stable items that we can give out to clients to help supplement the food we give Hays County Food Bank.”