As first responders and health care workers on the front lines continue to suffer from a shortage of much-needed personal protective equipment, or PPE, amid the coronavirus crisis, many Santa Clarita Valley residents are stepping up and continuing to do what they can to help the community while they remain “safer at home.”
Newhall resident Lydia Kravitz sewed face masks to send to her daughter Kelly, a mother of three and a nurse for a COVID-19 ward at Long Island Jewish Hospital in New York.
“I just wanted to get some masks out to her and her coworkers, and then my husband posted on his Facebook page that I was making masks for nurses, doctors and first responders,” Kravitz said. “He said, ‘If you’re a nurse or doctor, let me know,’ and it just snowballed. I’ve been sewing for three weeks nonstop.”
Since then, Kravitz has begun to feel a sense of urgency and responsibility in her task.
“I feel like I have this job, and I have to get these masks to people,” she said, adding that she’s received messages from health care workers all over the U.S. “If they ask me, it’s in the mail or (getting) picked up at my house the next day.”
She’s been sewing since she was 12, so this is not only fun for her, but also makes her feel good.
“I’m still enjoying it because people are so grateful,” she said. “It makes me feel like there’s a little piece that I can do to help.”
Kravitz had made 450 masks as of last week, but plans to continue making them for anyone who needs them.
“They’re not to take the place of an N-95 (mask), but everyone needs masks now,” she added. “So if they need it, I want them to have it.”
Similarly, Valencia resident Ruth Stevenson has been sewing since a friend asked if she wanted to help make masks for Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital.
“I said, ‘Yes,’ of course, so she dropped me off some fabric and some elastic, and we started making masks,” Stevenson said.
She soon began asking family, friends and neighbors if they needed masks, getting numerous requests.
“People aren’t doing this because they want them. They’re doing this because they have to, and if I can sew, I have to do this for them,” she added.
Now, she’s making masks for essential workers who cannot go to work without them. “I’m going to continue doing it until people stop asking for them.”
While donations of cloth masks, such as the ones both Kravitz and Stevenson are making, cannot be used by clinical staff, they are still finding necessary uses for them at Henry Mayo.
“Obviously, anybody who is in a clinical position is using medical-grade masks … however, we have many employees here at the hospital that are not clinical,” said Marlee Lauffer, president of the Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Foundation. “So, the cloth masks are able to be used for all those employees that need to wear a mask, but are not direct patient care.”
With 2,200 employees and 500 physicians, the donations save the hospital from having to dip into its supply of medical-grade masks for those who don’t need them, prolonging their supply.
“They are very much appreciated and being used,” Lauffer added.
In the last few weeks, face masks aren’t the only donations the hospital has received.
“The community is so supportive of health care workers, and our hospital in particular, that we are receiving amazing donations,” Lauffer said. “We have had medical groups donate supplies that they had on hand. We’ve had contractors, plumbers and painters give us their N-95s.”
In addition to N-95s, these donations include other much-needed PPE, such as surgical masks, gowns, booties, hair bonnets and face shields, as well as hand sanitizer. “All of this is boosting the supply we already had on hand, so it’s helping extend it a little bit more.”
The foundation has continued to raise funds to support Henry Mayo, which is a not-for-profit hospital, but has also seen an increase in generous donations, either for regular programs or to help with the COVID-19 surge.
Still, that doesn’t even begin to include the food donations, which the hospital has started to receive almost daily.
Mom groups, church groups, local businesses and local restaurants are among some of the donors who have either donated to specific departments, such as the COVID units, intensive care or emergency department, or to the entire hospital, “which on a normal day is probably 1,500 people,” Lauffer added.
“(Donors) are absolutely supporting our hospital and employees, but they’re also supporting a lot of local restaurants that are struggling … which we just love,” she added. “It’s working both ways, and we recognize that and appreciate it.”
Though donations have been coming so “fast and furious” that compiling a list has seemed nearly impossible, Henry Mayo officials want the community to know how grateful they are.
“What is really I think so special about the Santa Clarita Valley as it relates to Henry Mayo Hospital is the heart that the community has,” Lauffer said. “The outpouring of care and support has been just overwhelming and inspiring … and I doubt that there is as much outpouring in other communities as we are seeing here. It just speaks to how special Santa Clarita is that this community really focuses on supporting each other.”