Masks, face shields and other personal protective equipment are in high demand amid the pandemic, and HWS faculty members are answering the call — with sewing machines, community collaboration and 3D printers.
“It’s a strange time,” as Professor of Biology Sigrid Carle ’84, “but I’m thankful.”
“It’s nice to practice what I like to do to relax anyway and do something that will help,” she says.
“I imagine a lot of us have sewing machines and crafting supplies sitting around waiting for free time,” says Professor of English Anna Creadick. “Turns out what I really needed was not the time, but the purpose.”
As she began sewing, Creadick noticed the need for a centralized hub where volunteers could donate masks and residents could acquire them for free. Reaching out to local officials, the HWS community and area Facebook groups, she helped “rally people who can sew to the cause, to share patterns and advice.” She is now making weekly deliveries of masks sewn by campus and community members to The Geneva Center of Concern: the total delivered now more than 100.
The center, which functions as both the city’s food pantry and a general resource for those in need, faces a fierce demand for food and monetary donations to buy food. “They are seeing double their usual numbers daily at their food pantry. But when Gov. Cuomo announced the mask requirement, that need also became urgent,” says Creadick.
Working with Center of Concern director Cheryl Toor, Geneva city councilor Jan Regan, Blueprint Geneva executive director Jackie Augustine ’99, Geneva Human Rights Commission chair Michelle Barrett and the Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning Director Katie Flowers, Creadick helped to streamline the process and establish the center as the city’s hub for mask donations and distribution.
By the time cases of COVID-19 began to appear in the Geneva area, “architects, designers, and digital fabrication enthusiasts around the country” had created templates for 3D-printing visors with shields using “open source file and knowledge sharing available to the public,” says Associate Professor of Art and Architecture Gabriella D’Angelo.
Eileen Cooley, a resident of nearby Phelps, N.Y., had been making cloth facial masks for the respiratory department at Rochester General Hospital and wanted to increase the scale of personal protective equipment (PPE) production for the Geneva area. She reached out to D’Angelo, who has produced “a somewhat steady stream of visors” over the past several weeks using the Colleges’ 3D printers and the files established the Operation PPE initiative at Cornell University.
As Cooley and her group of volunteers have sewn hundreds of cloth masks, D’Angelo has “continued to print as many files as I can daily,” recently delivering the first set of 50 face shields to Geneva General Hospital.
Lara Turbide, a vice president at Finger Lakes Health and Executive Director of the Finger Lakes Health Foundation, says the donations are significant. “We have specifically been working to ensure that we have enough personal protective equipment to protect our healthcare staff and ensure we can keep our communities safe. We are grateful to HWS for being such an engaged and generous community partner,” says Turbide.
Meanwhile, D’Angelo continues printing. “I have no set goal of pieces to fabricate because I know there is a need somewhere,” she says. “I will continue to fabricate as long as I have the materials and machines to support the production.”