The need for medical supplies to help fight the spread of COVID-19 is continuing to grow in Hillsborough County, prompting numerous local organizations and community members to come together to help find solutions—including Hillsborough Education Foundation.
When Laura Gage, a longtime volunteer in Hillsborough Education Foundation’s Teaching Tools Resource Center, suggested HEF donate bundles of transparency paper to assist in creating face shields for medical personnel, the Foundation jumped at the chance to get involved and supplied more than 8,200 sheets of transparency paper.
The transparency paper, which was given to Hillsborough Education Foundation by 3M through Kids in Need Foundation, was initially intended to be used for school supplies. However, Hillsborough Education Foundation Chief Programs Officer Paul Casebolt said the Foundation is happy the product can be utilized to help provide additional protective gear for healthcare workers.
“We had this product where we weren’t really sure of the best way to use it and how it might best benefit our community, so when she brought us this idea we said this is the perfect way for us to utilize this to not only impact our community but help those people who are on the frontlines during this crisis,” Casebolt said.
The transparency sheets will be used in a 3D printing project to create reusable face shields that can cover surgical or N95 masks and extend the life of these limited medical supplies by adding a layer of protection.
“It’s really nice to feel there’s something you can do. I think we’re all a little anxious,” Gage said.
Gage explained that several local and national 3D printing groups, including Tampa Hackerspace, are engaging in grassroots efforts to create the face shields. Print the Curve, a Facebook group comprised of more than 300 members of the 3D printing community has quickly gained steam, and people with 3D printers are organizing to share patterns to make the protective shields. The group is working together to support facilities that are running low on supplies, including BayCare, Tampa General Hospital testing sites, Florida Hospital, Hillsborough County and more.
“It’s happening very quickly, people with 3D printers at home figured out—working with medical facilities—what they can use and they made patterns and they’re just sharing them through organized groups, Facebook groups and Slack channels,” Gage said. “Everybody who has got a machine and filament is jumping in and then we’re coordinating drop-offs.”
As Hillsborough Education Foundation continues to support at-risk students with necessary technology, online access and school supplies in the wake of COVID-19, Casebolt said the Foundation is happy to provide supplies to another vulnerable population— medical personnel.
“Our medical community is the backbone to making sure we get through this crisis successfully, and so the fact that our donation that was originally given by 3M through the Kids in Need Foundation for school supplies can now be used to help medical personnel and to help sick people during this very critical time, we think it’s just a very innovative and creative way to use the product.”
To provide needed supplies, help bridge the digital divide for students who are adapting to eLearning due to COVID-19 and to support Hillsborough Education Foundation’s mission to strengthen public education in Hillsborough County, visit educationfoundation.com/donate to make a contribution.