Brandeis departments and community join to collect donations, prepare meals for first responders

May 16, 2020

Parents of Chinese international students have raised over $30,000 to purchase personal protective equipment (PPE) for first responders in the greater Boston area after learning there was a shortage of supplies, wrote Haizhen Ding P’21 to The Brandeis Hoot in an email interview in Chinese that was translated into English. 

Various departments around campus also joined forces to collect PPE for first responders in the greater Waltham and Boston area during the height of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Between the departments, 107 surgical gowns and pairs of booties, 600 surgical masks, 358 N95 respirators, 460 boxes of gloves, 100 nasopharyngeal swabs and 10 pairs of reusable goggles were donated, according to a BrandeisNOW article

Donations were distributed to the Waltham Fire Department as well as Boston Medical Center, UMass Memorial Medical Center, Massachusetts Department of Public Health, AFC Urgent Care, Emerson Hospital and Newton-Wellesley Hospital, according to a BrandeisNOW article.

Students and families 

After witnessing the first wave of the COVID-19 outbreak in their homes, a group of Chinese parents started collecting donations through WeChat, a social media platform mainly used in China, to help purchase PPE for first responders in the Boston area. The group had over 700 student parents, representing over 500 families.

KaiXuan Ding ’21, Ding’s son, had bought a lot of masks in preparation for an outbreak in the United States when he saw what was happening in China, Ding wrote to The Hoot. Learning of the shortage of masks and other PPEs, a lot of the parents wanted to send “PPE care packages” to their children for protection during travel, which included N95 masks, glasses, gloves, wipes, etc. 

However, when the parents learned that hospitals were lacking PPE, they immediately started another fundraiser to purchase equipment. “There was no hesitation,” Ding wrote. “We were just trying to help those most in need.” 

As a group, the parents decided to purchase masks instead of donating the money. One parent who was a physician in Wuhan during the initial outbreak said “what we needed was not money, but PPE.” The donations started coming in on March 21, and by April 1 a group of parents and students donated 30,000 masks to Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH).

Zhengchao Jiu P’21 contacted the chief executive office of Jointown Medical Devices Group, a medical products distributor, to inquire about purchasing masks. After securing the masks, Thomas Chen P’24 volunteered to drive 60 boxes of masks from New York City to MGH. 

“We can’t thank them enough for taking the time and effort to drive this inventory to us,” Gary Mulrey, the receiving manager from MGH, said in an article by BrandeisNOW. “It will enable us to keep using ear loop masks at the hospital entrances and other internal locations to keep our employees safe for most of the week.”

The group adopted the slogan “Innermost Truth is Love,” which was inspired by the Brandeis motto “Truth, even unto its innermost parts,” as a way to express their feelings of love and support, Ding wrote to The Hoot. 

The group is still continuing to collect donations and recently donated 4500 masks to Newton-Wellesley Hospital on April 17 and 2000 masks to the Brandeis Health Center for further distribution on April 13. 

The Sciences 

Ricardo Padua, a postdoctoral fellow in Professor Dorothee Kern’s (BCHEM) lab, was inspired to collect donations of PPE from closed Brandeis labs after he saw on Instagram a tattoo artist that donated his masks and gloves to a local hospital. “[I] wondered if we could do the same with the lab PPE that were not being used due to lockdown,” Padua wrote to The Brandeis Hoot in an email.

After contacting individuals from labs on campus, Padua told The Hoot that the sciences collectively donated 250 boxes of gloves, 150 surgical masks and seven safety goggles. 70 of the 250 boxes of gloves were donated by Isaac Kraus (CHEM), whose lab looks at HIV vaccines design, according to a BrandeisNOW article. “Our gloves are obviously needed desperately by people on the front lines of hospitals,” said Kraus in the article. “I am happy that they can be put to use in this manner.” 

Padua worked with Hagia Sophia, a close friend and nurse at Emerson Hospital in Concord, MA, where all the donations from the sciences went.

“It is always good to help people,” he wrote to The Hoot, reflecting on the impact that he made coordinating the donation. “At the same time, I wondered how much more effective it would have been to have those donations organized by the government, in terms of both scale and logistics.” 

Campus Operations

Joshua Manfredo, the Director of Emergency Management on campus, wrote to The Hoot in an email that campus operations on campus has relationships with many groups in the Waltham area and the Waltham Fire Department had asked if the university had any PPE that they could be donated. “As a team, we determined what we had in excess that could fit the needs of the Waltham Fire Department,” Manfredo wrote. “Our motivating factor to proceed was to help first responders protect themselves from contracting COVID-19.” 

He added that donations not only went to the Waltham Fire Department, but also several local hospitals in the greater Waltham area. 

“Being able to provide assistance to not only our campus, but also to our neighbors is a great way to show our commitment to helping the overall community,” Manfredo wrote to The Hoot.

The Rose Art Museum

Following the lead of Boston museums, that announced their temporary closure on March 12, the Rose Art Museum announced that March 15 would be the last day it was open to the public until at least April 30, Anthony DiPietro, the Associate Director of Administration and Operations of the Rose Art Museum wrote to The Hoot in an email. 

In total, the Rose Art Museum collected nine boxes of nitrile gloves and five Tyvek personal protective suits. “We had the supplies on hand as part of our collection care efforts as well as a past exhibition,” DiPietro wrote. The protective suits were from Tony Lewis’s mural, Plunder, which was created in 2017 by Lewis and a crew that included Brandeis students. 

DiPietro was informed by Diane Denning, the administrative director of the Brandeis Health Center, that the health center was working with Boston Medical Center to coordinate donations in an effort to place supplies in areas that are directly working with COVID-19 patients. DiPietro credits Roy Dawes, the senior preparator at the Rose Art Museum for checking “on the Rose art collection in storage and take steps to protect the artwork that remains on display in the galleries. He was able to check our inventory and take our extra supplies to the health center.” 

“I felt like we were doing a very positive thing that would do some good for people on the first lines of defense against this insidious virus,” Dawes told DiPietro. “It was especially gratifying to donate when we are living in a time when it seems like there is very little we can do to help, but this proves that there are indeed ways to help.”

Fine Arts

Tory Fair (FA), the studio director for the Goldman-Schwartz Arts Studios, communicated with Rebecca Strauss, the studio technician at the studio, to see if she had any additional supplies, Fair wrote to The Hoot in an email. Fair estimates that they donated 12 boxes of disposable gloves in total, with 200 gloves in each box. 

Sodexo Dining Services 

With students limited to Sherman Dining Hall, dining hall workers are using the unused kitchens in Usdan Student Center to make grab and go meals for local hospitals, Emily Baksa, marketing specialist for Sodexo at Brandeis, wrote to The Hoot in an email. Sodexo is currently making deliveries multiple times a week to feed nurses, doctors and administrative staff at over 10 hospitals including: Beth Israel East and West, Boston Children’s Hospital, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and other local hospitals in the surrounding Boston suburbs. 

Besides creating these meals for not only students still living on campus and local hospitals, the dining team is partnering with different groups on campus to put daily notes in student meal boxes “with the goal of sharing joy with students who have had to remain on campus for various reasons due to the pandemic,” Baksa explained. The dining team also worked to make masks for all dining employees on campus. 

Dining manager Andy Allen brought the idea to the rest of the dining team, who had prior experience running a similar project at Harvard University, Baksa wrote to The Hoot. “With my experience running a central production facility in a previous job, when I was approached to see if Brandeis could ramp up to support the healthcare facilities in this fashion, it was an easy yes for me,” Allen wrote to The Hoot in an email.

The entire dining team at Brandeis worked together to develop a menu, ensure that all the food was labelled properly and provide oversight “to ensure that we are producing and delivering a healthy product,” Allen explained. 

Any members of the Brandeis community that may have additional items to donate should contact Denning at the health center to schedule a drop off. 

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