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Homestead School Joins Forces with CovidCourage to Get Protective Gear to Healthcare Workers as COVID-19 Hits Our Area

On the morning of March 18, 2020, as the Homestead School staff launched their first day of online learning, I received a text from our friend at CovidCourage in New York City, asking if we’d be able to collaborate with them in the effort to create Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for NYC healthcare workers.  By day’s end, the Homestead School’s two 3D printers were running prototypes of various designs of face shields. Once a preferred model had been selected, my husband/coworker, Jack, and I made an appeal to the community for resources to begin producing face shields en masse. 

Jack Comstock checks 3D printers every hour to keep the visors printing.

With similar efforts by makers across the country and delayed shipping times, both Homestead staff and parents worked tirelessly for the first days to find immediate sources of the dwindling supplies needed to complete the face shields. In collaboration with Covidcourage, the necessary items were secured and scheduled for delivery either Upstate or to the city as we planned the various stages of assembly.

Friends of the Homestead School purchased a 3D printer for the cause, and filament, foam, glue, and elastic began arriving.  The Upper Elementary and Middle School building transformed into a small 3D printing farm and assembly area. Long time Homestead School staff member, Elizabeth Sherwood, began working on gluing foam to the 30 visor pieces that were being printed daily, and By Sunday, March 29, Homestead School handed the NYC team 150 face shields to be completed and delivered to hospitals.

Liz Sherwood glues the foam band to each headpiece then attaches elastic and the acetate face shield, and the PPE is complete.

As we became acquainted with the time and effort involved in production, their thoughts turned to underutilized resources in the area. I reached out to Superintendent of Schools Robert Dufour, who immediately connected with all principals to mobilize teaching staff with experience and access to 3D printers to join in the effort.  Don Thomas from the Fallsburg School District responded immediately and brought three 3D printers home, as well as the other necessary materials his school had, and has printed 100 masks for the cause to date!

Don Thomas form Fallsburg Central School District has been making PPE with Homestead School since Day 3 and has provided over 150 Face Shields to the cause to date.

As word spread about the movement to create PPE from home, we’ve had people join the printing effort from age 5 to 65. 16 year old Michael Amato from Port Jervis reached out and began printing immediately. Homestead family Audrey Marrs, Marco Bianco, and their two daughters, Sofia and Mei, bought a 3D printer and have added printing visors to their homeschooling routine.

Homestead parents Dennis Cheng and Laura Tierney brought their 3D printer to the Homestead School and connected with Stourbridge Project in Honesdale who also lent their 3D printer to Homestead. As the team explores new simpler designs for face shields, Dennis has been working closely with Jack and the NYC team on the possibility of shifting 3D printer production to respirators as well as producing face shields in a more efficient manner.

With the additional 3D printers, Jack is producing 40 visors for the shields each day. Homestead alumni Brian and Ella Sherwood joined their mother in assembling as the production increased, and alumni Louise Bloom and her mother, Jane, have volunteered to assemble as well. The combined efforts should be producing about 75 shields a day.

As the need for PPEs arose closer to home, the Homestead connected with Sullivan County leadership, making itself available as a resource for production. To date, over 350 face shields have been delivered to Sullivan and Orange County hospitals, EMT’s , and service workers who need them. Our goal is to send another 200 visors to NYC to help meet Covidcourage’s original goal of providing 500 face shield to NYC healthcare workers, then continue to make PPE to meet the local need.

Nisha Gupta hands another 38 shield to Homestead parent, Betsy Fitzpatrick, to deliver to Bon Secours staff

UPDATE: The Community Foundation of Orange and Sullivan County awarded Friends of the Homestead School a $5,000 grant for the PPE work! Thank you so much, CFOSNY for allowing us to focus on the work we are doing without worrying about funding! In addition to CFOSNY’s support, the Sullivan Public Library Alliance brought three 3D printers to the school, which are all creating clips for the elastic band of surgical masks, to keep healthcare workers’ skin behind the ears from chafing.

If you have resources to add to this effort or would like assistance in coordinating production in your area or for sourcing supplies, please contact nisha@homesteadeducation.org.  

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