Mineola, NY—Hospitals all over the United States are running short of personal protective equipment (PPE) for their medical staffs fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. In hard-hit Nassau County, Long Island, local community volunteers stepped up to help.
Citizens in the town of Mineola helped two nearby hospitals, Winthrop and Northwell Health, obtain more personal protective equipment for their healthcare workers, as well as for local police and fire personnel.
“I can’t really remember when or how this all really started. I just remember being frustrated and concerned for my fellow nurses working in hospitals and wanting to help,” says Myriam Shevlin, one of the founders of Operation PPE Mineola. “So I reached out to my incredibly talented friend Terry Galan (formerly of Jacmel Jewelry) and my can-build-it-all friend Frank P. Valente.”
Through Shevlin’s friendship with Diane Grafing, an ICU nurse and wife of Centurion sales manager Jack Grafing, when the call went out that the group was in need of elastic to make masks and hair caps, Jack Grafing told Howard Hauben, president of Centurion. Hauben immediately offered up several hundred of the elastic straps that go on Centurion’s show badges. That elastic cord is now helping to protect healthcare workers’ lives, not hold badges: it’s being used to build masks and caps for the nurses to wear on duty in local hospitals.
“Along the way, we pulled in over 70 volunteers and donators, and here we are! As of 4/14, we have been able to supply: 904 face masks, 465 ear-saving headbands, 153 protective face shields, 73 protective headwear, and 35 crocheted and 3-D printed tie backs to 10 hospitals and 2 rehabilitation centers in our area,” says Shevlin. Those totals don’t count the ones that are still being made, either, she says. Top image: stacks of finished masks and protective headwear.
“It has been a race to help build and distribute masks, face shields, and caps to the local medical institutions. This is a project very close to me since my wife, Diane Grafing, is an ICU nurse in Northwell (also known as Long Island Jewish Hospital) on the border of Queens and Long Island, right in the heart of this pandemic,” says Centurion’s Jack Grafing.
Volunteers sewing masks and PPE.
“I can not tell you how amazed people at work are with the supplies. They have such a look of relief then fill up with tears and disbelief when I tell them it has all been donated by the people in in Mineola. They even offer to pay for these things! Thank you, thank you, thank you,” says Therese Suchocky LaFaye, a nurse in one of the local hospitals.
Workers in their new masks.
“While the news reports the curve is flattening and admissions are down, the fight is still being fought and our healthcare workers still need us. Hopefully we are getting close to going back to work and living a more normal life. I am grateful to the firefighters showing up and cheering the hospitals workers on and to the local restaurants donating food and residents donating their time and/or money to help out!” adds Jack Grafing.