Community Rallies Together for Support During Pandemic
As a field sales specialist for a worldwide medical distribution company, Brittany Mack of Tampa began offering friends the sample surgical masks and face shields she had in her home to help protect them against the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Then she saw a news report about Hillsborough County's urgent plea for those items and other personal protection equipment for first responders, health care workers, and facilities. "I went to my marketing manager and said, 'Can I donate them'?" Mack, 30, who works from her home, recalled.
Given a quick go-ahead, Mack, who works for McKesson Corporation, drove to a former Sears Automotive shop at Westshore Plaza, where she donated 50 face shields and 200 surgical masks.
The shop is donation central in Hillsborough County's efforts to help provide the equipment needed to shield first responders, health care workers, and numerous others from the virus. Dozens of residents and companies have donated tens of thousands of essential items, which are then distributed to areas that need them the most.
"I think this is definitely severely impacting our health care system," Mack says of the virus and the strain on supplies. "I see it on a day-to-day basis. We don't have the supply. I figured any little thing I can do, I'm going to do it."
Sinjana Kolipaka of New Tampa shares that urgency. A University of South Florida student majoring in international studies and biomedical sciences who plans to attend medical school, she volunteered to work at the donation center. The 21-year-old is managing the warehouse, opening and closing on days of operation, and helping receive and document the equipment and names of donors.
Kolipaka and the other volunteers - including military veterans and faith-based workers of all ages - and a handful of County employees are essential to this comprehensive effort.
Residents and businesses have donated surgical masks, gloves, saline syringes, medical sponges, alcohol swabs, overboots, goggles, and other items. One recent day, for example, a woman from a mission-abroad organization donated dozens of gowns, masks, and eye-protection gear. On another day, a representative from the University of Florida delivered gloves and other items.
As a precaution against the virus, all items are wiped down and allowed to "rest" for 24 hours before being distributed, says Kolipaka, who is receiving hands-on training for a field she plans to pursue.
"I have the opportunity to help in a tangible way," explains Kolipaka. She says she has a passion for public health and plans to practice emergency medicine and become a public health advocate, helping respond to disasters and other emergencies.
"I feel a responsibility - that since I am able to help, I should help."
Donations are sorely needed. Medical schools, dental clinics, elective surgery centers, private vendors, residents, and others are asked to donate only the following items: impervious gowns, face shields, surgical masks, N95 masks, Tyvek suits, and examination gloves. The equipment must be medical grade personal protection equipment, new in the box or unused. All sizes are needed.
Donations can be dropped off at the former Sears Automotive shop, 250 Westshore Plaza in Tampa, Monday through Friday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Questions can be directed to a member of the Donations Team at (813) 641-6985.
Get Connected. Stay Alert.
For more information on COVID-19, and any other potential emergency in the region, visit HCFLGov.net/StaySafe and sign up for the HCFL Alert system. Additionally, you can follow Hillsborough County on social media at Facebook, Twitter, and Nextdoor for updates. For general County information, call (813) 272-5900, the County's main information line.