COLUMN: Coming together to fulfill the need

Published 7:03 pm Monday, April 20, 2020

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By BRIANA H. WILSON / Staff Writer

With local hospitals reporting a shortage of personal protective equipment, area companies are coming together to help those on the frontlines fighting COVID-19.

Personal protective equipment refers to the face masks and shields, gowns, goggles and gloves worn by medical professionals to protect them from infection. Right now, hospitals nationwide are short on these items, with many having to wear the same PPE for hours or days at a time.

Locally, Summer Classics, the University of Montevallo, Alabama Power’s Technology Applications Center and the North Shelby Library have joined the ranks of organizations that have shifted to producing much needed supplies for healthcare workers.

Summer Classics, which manufactures and sells outdoor furniture, has donated thousands of masks to area hospitals and is also making cloth coverings for its employees and their family members.

Through its supply chain partners in Asia, Summer Classics has donated more than 18,000 N-95 and surgical masks to hospitals including Shelby Baptist Medical Center, Children’s of Alabama, UAB, St. Vincent’s, Birmingham VA Medical Center and Brookwood Baptist Medical Center. The company expects to donate another 30,000 masks to the medical community, according to Vice President of Human Resources David McLean.

UM is using its 3D printers to create face masks for Shelby Baptist. The materials to create the masks were sourced from various departments at the university. Alabama Power and the North Shelby Library are using their 3D printers to make the plastic head bands needed to assemble face shields.

Alabama Power’s Technology Applications Center in Calera has partnered with Alabama Productivity Center at The University of Alabama and UAB’s School of Engineering to make as many head bands as possible. Alabama Power is also laser cutting the plastic shields for some of the headbands produced. Assembly is expected to take place at UAB.

The library’s effort is part of the Bham Support organization. Bham Support describes itself as a “community of makers” coming together to meet needs during the pandemic. Once the plastic headbands are printed, librarian Kate Etheredge delivers them to Bham Support where the masks are assembled, sterilized and distributed.

With resources limited for hospitals to purchase the needed supplies, the greater Birmingham community is coming together to manufacture supplies. Working together and supporting those who need it is the only way we will make it through.

I’m thankful to these organizations that have used their money and resources to contribute to the greater good.