While watching news reports about the COVID-19 outbreak during the last couple of weeks, Washougal School District (WSD) career and technical education (CTE) director Margaret Rice was struck with inspiration.
“I heard over and over again that personal protective equipment (PPE) is being depleted to scary-low levels in medical centers,” she said. “I thought, ‘We’re not in school. Several of our programs have passed the point of needing the PPE, and it’s just sitting there not being used.”
Earlier this month, Rice donated a large portion of WSD’s medical equipment to Legacy Health, a regional hospital system based in Portland. The directors of the Ridgefield and Vancouver school districts’ CTE programs joined Rice in the donation effort.
“Giving it to providers who need it just seemed like the right thing to do,” Rice said. “Several of my family members are healthcare professionals — two of my sisters-in-law are nurses, and my brother is an anesthesiologist technologist, so this hit home for me. It’s important for us during times like these do all we can to help each other out in ways that we never thought necessary before.”
The items — including protective glasses, gloves and masks — were used in several of WSD’s CTE classes, including biomedicine, first aid and woodshop.
“I am grateful for the strong partnerships that we have built in our community,” WSD Superintendent Mary Templeton said. “During these times of great need, these partnerships are critical as we work together to make sure our community is healthy and safe. Although there are significant challenges as we face this virus, there are also significant opportunities for us to shine together and ‘lean in’ to the service of others.”
Rice contacted Rene Del Donno, the logistics and materials manager at Legacy Health’s Salmon Creek Medical Center, to inquire if the reported shortage figures were accurate. After Del Donno confirmed that the Legacy center was indeed experiencing a lack of PPE, Rice asked about how she could donate WSD’s items.
“At first they were saying, ‘We’ll only take things that are sealed.’ Then the next email says, ‘Actually, we’ll take it all,’” Rice said. “(Medical providers) are experiencing these PPE depletions, and because of the fact that this is a global crisis, we’re competing (for these items) with other countries, not just other states. We need to look at the resources we have locally to try to get them in the hands of the local providers. The chances of them getting (sick) will be that much lower.”
Rice worked with Tamara Uppendahl, Legacy Health’s vice president of philanthropy services, to generate a list of needed items, including Nitrile gloves, isolation gowns and various types of masks. Next, Rice reached out to her “CTE network” of regional peers to see if they were willing and able to donate their programs’ PPE to medical centers.
“I knew that we wouldn’t be able to donate as much (as other districts) because we’re smaller,” she said. “I also thought that if we had these items sitting around, other districts might have them as well. I figured the more we could collect, the more we could impact in a positive way.”
CTE directors Mark Wreath (Vancouver Public School District) and Tiffany Gould (Ridgefield School District) were among the first to respond.
“We have to lean on each other while keeping our social distance,” Gould said in a news release issued by WSD, “because the way we’re getting through this is together.”
Rice created a shareable spreadsheet to log the inventory that each district was willing to donate. Then, on Friday, March 20, Rice, Wreath and Gould delivered the supplies — 166 pairs of protective eyewear, 141 boxes of Nitrile gloves, 1,930 masks, 13 bottles of hand-sanitizer and two boxes of tech wipes — to Legacy Health’s Office of Philanthropy and Community Engagement in Portland.
“We had trunk-loads full of stuff,” Rice said. “My whole back seat was filled. Mark’s trunk was filled. Tiffany’s trunk was full. We had lots and lots of boxes and bags.”
Rice said the group is already planning to make another “delivery run” soon.
“We hope that as more people see what we’re doing, they say, ‘Hey, we have (items) that we can give, too,’” Rice said. “I think (the idea) will spread. Our state leadership understands the need, and as this situation becomes more and more critical, I think other areas will be able to step in and help.”
Camas students manufacture PPE
When Camas School District (CSD) CTE director Derek Jaques received Rice’s email, he passed it along to other CSD instructors to ask for help or ideas. He received quick responses from the advisers of Camas High School’s (CHS) FRC Team 2471 and Science Olympiad clubs.
“They said, ‘If we can get the designs, we can make this equipment ourselves. We have the capability of doing that,’” Jaques said. “They started to mobilize and share design files. They have the laser cutters and 3D printers needed to make goggles and face shields. It’s been a true crowd-sourcing effort — people have come out of the community and said, ‘I have a 3D printer in my garage, I’ll print some (PPE).’ It’s been a true community effort, and the movement has been growing.”
For the past couple of weeks, the clubs’ students and mentors have designed, manufactured and distributed eye masks and face shields to local medical facilities.
“We knew this would make a difference in our community and to the healthcare providers,” FRC Team 2471 president Gabe Guo said in a news release issued by FRC Team 2471. “As a result of our work, we have created more than 700 masks and counting, and we hope other schools are inspired to do the same.”
CSD, along with Camas’ Hewlett-Packard branch and MC Laser Labs, a Portland-based laser cutting service, provided the students with supplies and equipment to produce the masks and face shields from their houses and garages.
The groups hope to purchase more supplies with money donated to their GoFundMe account, which had raised $10,975 as of Monday, March 30.
“The goggles are high-quality and are built in a sanitary fashion,” Jaques said. “We’re copying some of the clean-room concepts that a lot of manufacturing companies use. Our community is a ‘silicon forest,’ so we have a lot of high-tech, clean-room minds in our backyard, which is amazing. Even though Hewlett-Packard moved its 3D printing division to Barcelona, Spain, a lot of (former employees) still live in this area, and a lot of those people have been instrumental in helping give us direction to print these.”
As of Monday, March 30, the groups had donated 550 pairs of goggles to local medical providers, and plan to donate more.
“The hospital staff members expressed how thankful they were,” Jaques said. “There’s a need, and we gave what we had, and these goggles are being used right now. It’s amazing.”
Jaques said the groups plan to “keep going until they run out of money or supplies.”
“This has been amazing to watch,” he said. “One of the real positives to come out of this thing, if there are any, is to see people come together for a common cause.”