The call went out.
And the response came roaring back.
When Spectrum Health reached out for help finding supplies for health care providers on the front lines of the COVID-19 epidemic, donations and assistance poured in.
Dentists piled up stacks of donated gear. Steelcase created shields for medical screeners in just a few days. Homeowners brought in face masks leftover from painting projects. Crafters stitched up cloth face masks.
Universities donated supplies. Businesses contacted suppliers.
“It’s spreading almost like this virus—but in a good way,” said Sarah Chartier, senior sustainability project manager for Spectrum Health. “You just see the network grow and the number of folks who are getting pulled in to help.”
How to help
To donate money, go to the Spectrum Health COVID response donations page.
For gifts of in-kind donations or to schedule delivery of meals, snacks or other care items, call 616.391.2000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those interested in donating PPE (personal protective equipment) supplies may email COVID19supplies@spectrumhealth.org for information or check spectrumhealth.org/covid19giving for current needs and drop-off locations.
The groundswell of support throughout West Michigan reflected generosity, ingenuity and a deep gratitude for those caring for the sick and injured during this crisis.
Chartier’s voice broke as she spoke about it.
“Our response has been incredible,” she said. “It has seriously brought me to tears how amazing our community is.”
Again and again, she hears, “We want to be helpful. We understand that protecting our care providers is protecting our community.”
The message resounded with Alex Robertson, a Spectrum Health surgical intensive care nurse.
“How great is it that our community can come together and donate to those of us on the front line?” she said. “It is so deeply appreciated.”
From one box to hundreds
Hilary Tien, a dental consultant, received a call for help from Jeri Kessenich, MD, a pediatrician at Spectrum Health Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
Could she donate a box of face masks?
Tien readily agreed. She used to work with Dr. Kessenich as a program coordinator for the pediatric residency program, so she knew the importance of wearing face masks. And Tien knew where she could find them—her father, Bruce A. Jackson, DDS, is a dentist.
But once she gave the matter some thought, she had one concern: One box would not go very far.
She put out a call for help to West Michigan dentists. Another dental consultant, Stephanie Smith, helped publicize the need on social media.
So many dentists responded that they held a drive on Saturday, March 21, collecting donations at her father’s dental office and the office of Mark Jesin, DDS.
The request for a single box ballooned into a pile of equipment that filled five cars and two pickups.
The haul included nearly 17,000 face masks, 180,000 gloves and 90 N95 respirator masks, as well as face shields, disposable gowns, hair nets, safety gowns and other equipment.
The gifts didn’t come just from dentist offices, Tien added. As word of the drive spread, others showed up to donate, including estheticians, construction workers and painters.
“The support that poured out just was so amazing to see,” she said. “It gives me goosebumps even now to think about it.”
Dr. Kessenich, overwhelmed by the volume, asked physician residents for a hand in delivering the supplies.
“I was immediately inundated with offers to help,” she said. “I was moved to tears by the success of the drive, the overwhelming kindness of the community and my fellow health care workers, who never cease to keep the welfare of the patient as the ultimate goal.”
Donations still keep coming in. And other communities are following suit. Tien has received requests for advice for dentists organizing similar drives throughout Michigan and out of state.
“I truly believe whenever we have the ability to give, we should,” Tien said. “Our dental community has the ability to give—and they showed they would.”
Steelcase steps up
Following state mandates, Spectrum Health restricted visitors to hospital and other patient care locations.
All visitors entering a hospital first meet with a staff member for a brief screening. Those with respiratory or flu-like symptoms may not visit.
To protect those greeting visitors—who may carry the COVID virus or other disease—the Spectrum Health facilities team went to work devising a solution.
“Our facilities team quickly created a metal frame to be placed in front of a table with a Plexiglass screen in front of it,” said John Shull, vice president of surgical services. “It’s a bare metal frame about the width of a table—like you find in a gas station or doctor’s office.”
Holes in the glass allow staff to pass through a visitor’s pass or other information.
The mock-up worked. But Spectrum Health needed many more—about 100—for its facilities.
Shull, a former Steelcase employee, contacted the office furniture company for help.
They responded with a speed and enthusiasm that amazed Shull.
“I sent a picture around noon with dimensions of the screen,” he said. “We had our first prototype from Steelcase around 3:30 p.m.”
And then the company went to work producing the clear acrylic screens. Total Plastics, a West Michigan-based plastic distributor, quickly provided the plastic needed.
Within just a couple of days, Steelcase had the first 50 screens ready.
The support from Steelcase and its employees represents a can-do spirit Shull sees emerging in this crisis—at Spectrum Health and throughout West Michigan.
“There are these incredibly amazing things that people are doing—clever and creative. They are following processes, but they are just exploding things to get these big projects done.
“The community is ready and willing to engage with us, and I think it’s great when we have the opportunity to follow up.”
The word spreads
Amid a national shortage of personal protective equipment—such as gowns, gloves and face masks—Spectrum Health’s supply chain team looked for sources across the state, nation and globe.
It sent out a call for help to local business groups. Area corporations in turn contacted their suppliers. Consultants offered their services and contacts with suppliers.
Universities, which have canceled classes, pulled personal protection equipment from their labs and clinical research spaces to send to Spectrum Health. For instance, Grand Valley State University’s science programs donated some 90,000 medical gloves.
“There’s a lot of initiative and invention to help us solve this problem,” Chartier said. “People are asking themselves, ‘What skills do I have, what resources do I have that could be helpful?’”
As word of the need spread, help came through individuals in the community—offering face masks from home.
A florist delivered bouquets—flowers from a canceled wedding—to brighten the hospitals.
Others have arranged for food deliveries—sandwiches, soup and doughnuts—for medical workers.
“The community is embracing us and we are coming together, even as we are practicing social distancing,” said Tamara VanderArk-Potter, marketing director for the Spectrum Health Foundation.
“It is so like West Michigan to come together and want to find solutions, to persevere in this time of crisis. We are most fortunate.”
Spectrum Health Foundation has allocated $500,000 to the COVID-19 response. Those who want to donate financially can give to the foundation’s COVID-19 Response Fund.
“The Spectrum Health leadership team is putting the money to work where it is needed most, whether it’s for equipment or things that will help out the staff who are on the front line,” said Vicki Weaver, president of Spectrum Health Foundation.
Donations may support assistance with child care or hotel costs for employees who need to stay close by or who must be separated from their family because of infection concerns.