When this Florida teacher learned that her local hospital needed wipes, she instantly knew where she could get them: from the empty classrooms in her school.
Rebecca Talaia, who teaches at Indialantic Elementary School in Brevard County, Florida, found out about the situation when she spoke to a mom of one of her sixth-grade students. She’s working as a nurse and told Rebecca that her hospital was running low on wipes. The educator immediately thought of the supply of disinfectant wipes sitting untouched in classrooms.
At the beginning of the school year, teachers request one canister of wipes per student as part of their school supply list. The students use them to clean desks, laptop computers, and other areas of their classrooms.
Rebecca contacted her principal, Lori Braga, to see if they could gather the stock of wipes from the classrooms. She was 100% supportive of the idea.
“The teachers in my school readily shared where their wipes were located so we could collect them and supply them to the unit where the student whose mom I spoke with works,” she said.
Rebecca thought of involving the entire school district in her project. She called Tina Descovich, her local representative in the school district, to ask for help. The representative then brought the Florida teacher’s idea to Superintendent Mark Mullins.
Within days, the superintendent helped deliver over 600 canisters of wipes to Health First Community Hospitals, a health care system that manages four hospitals as well as outpatient and wellness facilities.
The most recent batch of donated wipes delivered to Health First will benefit respiratory isolation units located inside their facilities. Rebecca’s initiative was of great help to them, especially now that the national supply of disinfectant wipes have also been dwindling.
Aside from cleaning surfaces and common areas in hospitals, the wipes will also be used to clean areas and items that don’t need hospital-grade disinfection, such as patients’ personal devices. Barbara Seymour, the vice president of nursing at Health First, says that her team is extremely grateful for all the help.
“It allows us to continue caring for those coming to us for this critical care,” she said.
Dedicated to spreading the idea all over the country, Rebecca launched From Our Classrooms to Our Nurses: American Schools Care. The website serves as a platform where schools can enter the products they can donate, and hospitals can list the supplies they need. At present, Rebecca is manually matching the requests coming in.
“The program matches schools and hospitals within a certain distance of each other and, if the amounts are appropriate, they get matched,” Rebecca said.
Jordan Wiens, a neighbor who wanted to contribute to Rebecca’s cause, helped her create the program. The project is already gaining traction as Rebecca continues to receive requests from around the country. She also recommends visiting the nationwide #GetUsPPE website, another platform where people can search for organizations in need of personal protective equipment gear.
This Florida teacher is glad that amid the coronavirus crisis, the whole country is coming together to achieve a common goal.
“Amongst all this sadness and angst, there is still so much joy,” Rebecca said. “Americans need to do as much as we can to help get needed supplies into the hospitals. We need to protect our healthcare workers because without them, we will perish.”
Indeed, we see people’s true colors during the worst of times. And in this current situation, Americans have revealed who they really are: a nation of resourceful, generous, and courageous citizens.