The COVID-19 outbreak has already begun to stretch supplies thin at hospitals in North Carolina, but North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services employees are already finding ways to help.
Recently, NCDA&CS Agronomic Services division employees donated several boxes full of personal protective equipment to the Rex Wellness Center in Raleigh.
Lee Page, agricultural technician, had the idea one night after hearing that the hospitals needed help.
“We have a bunch of stuff here in these closets that have just been sitting here for years, and I heard them say they were taking donations,” Page said. “So I figured hey, we’ve got a lot of stuff we can donate that we don’t use anymore.”
Page then called Michelle McGinnis, field services section chief, to see if they could get the idea off the ground. McGinnis loved the idea, and when Page came to to work the next day, he broached the idea to some of the members of the soil lab where most of the PPE came from. After final approval from Dr. Colleen Hudak-Wise, agronomic services division director, the plan was good to go.
Together with McGinnis and agronomist Jessica Long, Page “raided the closet” and came away with a truckload of PPE items. The items included a wide range of equipment, from protective suits and gloves, respirators and rubber gloves to face shields and booties, stored in more than a dozen boxes and wheeled up to the doors of Rex Wellness Center. Once there, Rex staff came outside and helped wheel the items inside.
All of those items came mostly from just one lab, and Page has a hunch that more labs both within NCDA and other state government departments might have some leftover equipment hidden away that could be useful to hospitals.
“I think in general in state government, stuff gets purchased for certain jobs that change over time in terms of ergonomics,” Page said. “So I do feel like there are probably labs that have stuff to donate if they look around.”
McGinnis wants to help those other groups get their excess equipment in the hands of medical professionals. On Tuesday, she sent out an email inviting other NCDA labs to contact her if they need help coordinating a similar equipment donation. The best way to do so is by sending her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, she said.
“We’re over on Reedy Creek Road, and we have a few trucks available over there right now. So we can even help load it onto the trucks and haul it over there if they need help with that,” she said. “I do think a lot of divisions in Ag have a bunch of stuff that they don’t use and that could be used, so it would be good for people to see what they have. Ag could really help here.”
Amid an unprecedented global health crisis, Page has a simple message for both his fellow state employees and anyone else with the power to lend a hand.
“Help your fellow Americans,” he said. “We’re in the middle of a crisis right now. Nobody who is alive today has ever seen something like this, so you should do your part to try to help if you can.