Northsiders Step Up to Supply Masks for Health Care Professionals
Photographer / Eli Beaverson
As medical professionals all over the world have worked to combat the coronavirus and faced supply shortages in the process, several local individuals and organizations on Indy’s Northside have joined the fight by raising money to provide necessary face masks for local hospitals, first responders and senior care facilities.
Back in March, Michael Slate, founder of Fishers-based e-commerce retailer VendorJump, launched a GoFundMe page to raise money for much-needed masks used by health care professionals dealing with the rising number of COVID-19 cases throughout area hospitals.
When John Wechsler, founder of co-working space Launch Fishers and a friend of Slate’s, heard about what Slate was doing, he immediately starting thinking about how he and other local residents could get involved.
“In late March, my wife saw Michael’s Facebook post saying that he had started the GoFundMe to get some masks,” Wechsler says. “Michael is a member at Launch Fishers, and his sister-in-law is a nurse up at Riverview who got moved into the COVID unit there. She was telling him that they were basically being told to reuse the same mask all day, which is completely not protocol. So he wanted to start doing something about it.”
Wechsler and Slate reached out to Darryn Scheske at Heartland Church in Fishers regarding the prospect of collecting donations and ordering masks, and Scheske reached out to some fellow pastors.
“Darryn Scheske at Heartland Church said that he’d been looking for ways to support frontline medical workers, and he committed the first check and sent out a text to local pastors,” Wechsler says. “The next thing you know it snowballed, and we quickly reached several hundred thousand dollars raised by the end of March.”
The team began sourcing KN95 masks, a less expensive alternative to the traditional N95 masks that are currently in drastically short supply in hospital facilities throughout the country. The masks and other protective equipment help to reduce the risk of exposure to viruses like the novel coronavirus that has spread worldwide since December. Many hospitals locally and throughout the country have exhausted their own supply of necessary masks and other protective supplies.
Slate, Wechsler and their colleagues have purchased more than 200,000 KN95 masks, sourced directly from China-based factories. Slate’s own business is centered on direct importing from China, and his contacts with Chinese factories helped to facilitate supply needs.
“Michael has employees on the ground, and they have friends that run the factories so they can literally be there and order what we need,” Wechsler says, adding that all of the masks will be distributed to hospitals and senior care facilities from the Hamilton County Emergency Management logistics hub. Delivery times for the masks range from seven to 14 days from China depending on quantity and availability.
“The rare component here is that we actually have the supply, but we need the money to buy it because you have to pay for everything up front,” Wechsler adds. “It surpasses our abilities individually to commit that kind of money, and that’s what has had us all together spreading the work. So it’s great to see a lot of people coming together and rallying around this urgent cause.”
The KN95 masks are being donated directly to Indianapolis-area hospitals, senior facilities and first responders. Donations can be made directly to Slate’s GoFundMePage which is linked at: Covidsupport.life.
Institutions interested in making a donation request or purchase inquiry for masks can complete and submit a form directly on the site home page. The site also includes a link to a detailed comparison of KN95 masks and traditional N95 masks, which are typically more expensive to manufacture, and the scarcity of which has led to shortages in manufacturing materials.
“While it’s taken a massive effort by everyone involved to pull this off, I am extremely grateful to have an opportunity to help our health care and other front line workers in such a meaningful way,” Slate says.
In addition to Heartland Church, several area organizations including Enigma Marketing and Travel Solutions, Traders Point Christian Church, Indiana Technology and Innovation Association, Heavenly Hearts Foundation and others have donated to the cause, as well as tech entrepreneurs and other individual donors.
“It’s been a passion project for all of us,” Wechsler says. “It’s a ton of work sourcing this stuff. Every single donor and recipient wants to do their due diligence, so we’re spending unbelievable amounts of time. We all need to respond during this time of emergency and answer the call. We’re happy to try to make a difference.”
For more details, frequently asked questions, direct contact info and a direct GoFundMe donation page link, visit Covidsupport.life. GoFundMe contributions are tax-deductible.