The Spirit of Volunteerism is Alive and Well at MLKCH

(Left to Right) South Los Angeles Resident Issac Cotton, Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, and MLKCH Population Health VP Dr. Jorge Reyno at Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Hospital.  Photo by Aurelia Ventura / Board of Supervisors

As the challenge of COVID-19 grows more severe by the day across the county and across the nation, local volunteers have pulled together to help hospitals and medical professionals who potentially facing an acute shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE).

In a call to action, a group of volunteers that include Judge Teresa Sanchez-Gordon, former Los Angeles County Supervisor Gloria Molina, local West Adams costume designer Mylette Nora, and others have pulled out their sewing machines to make masks and gowns for the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital. So far, they have crafted dozens of masks and gowns to help shield doctors, nurses and many others from the coronavirus, with more on the way.

“This is an extraordinary display of volunteerism, civic engagement, caring and empowerment,” said Mark Ridley-Thomas regarding the delivery of handmade personal protective equipment. “The spirit of volunteerism is alive and well on the campus of Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital, and it says we can step up and be apart of the solution.”

COVID-19 has halted much of County residents’ daily movements, stopping all but the most essential activities. It has also challenged global supply chains. Hospitals, facing the surge of the fast-spreading pandemic, are burning through their supplies of protective gear, in particular masks, at an incredible rate; which is why local volunteer efforts such as this one represent a beacon of light in what has been an increasingly difficult time.

“This donation is coming at a time when we’re expecting to see sicker patients and have a higher use of protective equipment for our staff,” said Dr. Jorge Reyno, Vice President of Population Health at Martin Luther King Jr. Community Hospital. “It’s extremely helpful to have this contribution to help keep our staff safe, and help care for our patients. We’re very grateful and excited to receive these gifts.”

While these homemade masks are not meant to substitute for the high-grade N95 masks that are the most effective devices to filter out COVID-19, they will help in freeing up the existing supply of N95 masks for the people who are the highest risk.

Even those who can’t sew have found ways to step up. Issac Cotton, a member of the south Los Angeles community, drove to pick up and deliver the masks and gowns so that the seamstresses would not have to leave their homes, risking infection.

“A good friend reached out and asked if I wanted to be of service to the community and I volunteered—I’m here to drop off these much needed donations,” said Issac Cotton. “It feels good to give back to see how I can help.”

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