This article has been updated to indicate that Nemours/A.I. duPont Hospital for Children will keep their Wilmington medical supplies collection facility open through April 30th.
In addition to an incredible level of spirit and optimism Delawareans possess, it turns out that Delawareans also own a lot of personal protective equipment. And they’re now donating it by the carload to hospitals and other healthcare organizations to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
Starting last Wednesday, people up and down the state have been dropping off boxes of protective face masks, medical gloves and surgical scrubs and bottles of hand sanitizers at any of ten collection locations in the state.
Boxing champion Dave Tiberi and his friend Richard Piendak helped bring hospitals and communities together and jump-start the collection initiative (https://donatede.org). Neither works in the healthcare field. But as businesspeople, they realized that as the number of cases of coronavirus grew, the community would need to step up in a big way.
Their medical pop-up supplies drive came together in a matter of days. And Tiberi and Piendak have traveled up and down the state the last four days making sure things were running smoothly.
The two were at the Frawley Stadium (home of the Wilmington Blue Rocks) collection site this morning, popping trunks, unloading donations and thanking everyone who made the effort to find resourceful items on their shelves. Donations there will be directed to St. Francis Hospital, ChristianaCare and the Wilmington VA Hospital.
“We’re appreciative of any donation. But the ones that amaze us are the unexpected large ones. Yesterday a women’s group in Smyrna dropped off a truckload of gloves, masks, hand sanitizers to benefit emergency responders,” said Piendak.
Piendack tapped Christy Willis, an enthusiastic organizer, to lead the collection drive in Smyrna. She placed road signs all over town, set up a Facebook event page, and advertised the drive on the Smyrna town website. As past president of the Hollies Club in Smyrna, she tapped into a bank of volunteers to staff the collection site over the four days.
“It’s been heartwarming to see the community turn out in such a big way. But it’s also amazing to see what people have found in their closets and their garages,” said Willis.
Willis says a retired police officer named Mike served as the security point person, volunteering every hour of the entire four days.
Medical supplies collected in Smyrna will be directed to local law enforcement and first responders. “We’ve collected 40 boxes of gloves, 30 boxes of masks, and a slew of other stuff like Tyvek suits, and booties. Sherwin Williams was a big donor, as were school nurses, Fletcher Plumbing and Eagle Group manufacturing. Our community is very involved,” said Willis.
Donations at Frawley Stadium continue on Sunday, April 5th – from 9 am to 4 pm.
And Nemours/A.I. DuPont Children Hospital for Children, which operates Wilmington’s second collection site at 5329 Concord Pike (at the Brandywine Towne Center), will be open Monday through Saturday, 9 am to 6 pm until April 30.
All other collection sites in Newark, Newport and downstate concluded their collections on Saturday.
Nemours started its collection on Wednesday. “It’s been amazing – the outpouring. We just can’t thank the community enough. And, you know, when we get a box of masks and that’s great because that’s one more box that we have for our staff,” said Mary Zier, who volunteered on Friday at the collection site.
The north Wilmington location has sorted their donations, and each is given an initial verification by staff. The hospital’s safety officer will review them before the materials management team decides where to deploy them.
“We have received food and snacks for our associates who are working at the hospital, wipes and hand sanitizing gels, goggles, gloves, dust masks, surgical masks and N95 masks. And on this table we have some miscellaneous items like scrubs, gowns and rubber gloves,” said Zier.
Don Bohn was also out at Frawley Stadium today. The Wilmington VA Medical Center spokesperson says his hospital system also has a shortage of masks and hand sanitizers.
“Those are the two things that are critical shortages for us. We have roughly 1,148 on staff across the system, which includes our community clinics. Right now, we’re worried about masking people that are going into areas like critical care ICU and some of the other outpatient areas,” said Bohn.
St. Francis Hospital sent three volunteers to Frawley Stadium today to help with the collections. President and CEO Dan Sinnott said they have purposefully reduced the volume of patients at their 120-bed facility to be ready when the surge peaks.
“We have asked the public to stay from our hospital so they can quarantine themselves. We have canceled all elective surgeries. Our office visits are way down. Our inpatient services are way down – all in anticipation of everything coming. It’s either the calm before the storm or the calm before the calm,” he said.
Sinnott said the Wilmington area hospitals are marshaling their resources and working together. “Our hospital is staffed and available. So we have capacity, much like any of the other hospitals in the state,” he said. “And we’re also working with the other hospitals in the state to set up some excess capacity if we need overflow. We might take some of the less acute patients out of Christiana or maybe some not-as-sick COVID patients so that the really acute people can remain in the bigger hospitals,” he said.
In spite of the crisis, the VA Hospitals’ Bohn said today has been uplifting. “It shows communities all coming together to fight something like this. And in spite of the situation, this has been a good thing.”
And ChristianaCare’s Tracy Bell, also at Frawley Stadium today said she hopes people continue to visit the donatede.gov website to find other ways to give throughout the pandemic. “There are a lot of great companies and community members who are supplying us with critical medical equipment, and we really appreciate it,” she said.