California church makes masks, gowns to fight COVID-19
By David Roach
RIVERSIDE, Calif. (BP) — Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) shortages have yielded an opportunity for one Riverside church to share the love of Christ with health care workers and emergency personnel.
During the past three weeks, Sandals Church has converted its in-house manufacturing facility — normally used to make furniture, signage and sermon props among other items — into a PPE production line to help battle the coronavirus pandemic.
Working just 10 at a time to minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19, church volunteers and staff have made more than 13,000 plastic gowns, 9,000 N95 masks and hundreds of plastic face shields. The PPE is packaged with a card that reads, “We’re praying for you! Provided and assembled by your friends from Sandals Church and local community volunteers.”
The work is being conducted in partnership with the California Southern Baptist Convention (CSBC) and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, as well as local charities The Magnon Foundation and Giverside.
“We love people,” said Ron McCoy, executive director of the Sandals Church Foundation. “We want to be a positive voice in a very hard season. We want to show people God in a very tangible way.”
The PPE has been distributed to about two dozen health care and emergency management organizations, including hospitals, senior care facilities, rehabilitation facilities and police departments. The donations have been well received, McCoy said, because California has experienced PPE shortages and price gouging even when the equipment is available for purchase.
More than 2,500 health care workers statewide have been diagnosed with COVID-19, The Los Angeles Times reported, and nurses at one Santa Monica hospital were placed on administrative leave because they refused to enter patient rooms without N95 masks. To combat shortages, Gov. Gavin Newsome announced earlier this month that California will spend nearly $1 billion to provide 200 million masks per month.
Additionally, a federal task force has noted California as a site where criminals are hoarding medical supplies and selling them at exorbitant markups, according to KGO TV in San Francisco.
Sandals plans to continue its PPE manufacturing as long as the pandemic continues, but church leaders wonder whether resources can keep pace with demand.
The idea of making PPE was initially suggested by a doctor in the congregation, which averages 14,000 in weekend worship across 11 campuses. Sandals hasn’t solicited requests for PPE, yet they have flowed in at a steady rate.
Manufacturing and packaging occurs in a vacant warehouse near the church’s campus in Riverside, where workers can maintain social distancing. Church staff and volunteers have contributed 10,000 hours of labor thus far in the warehouse. A local aerospace company cuts plastic for the gowns, and Sandals volunteers convert it into the finished product. Fabric and plastic for all the products produced have been prepared by additional volunteers working from their homes.
Sandals’ partnership with the CSBC began when the church contacted state disaster relief director Mike Bivins regarding the possibility of state convention assistance. Through a special circumstance with matching funds from Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, CSBC was able to assist with the initial production run. Partnering with Sandals dovetails with the CSBC’s strategy of empowering churches to respond to some disasters rather than attempting to coordinate all disaster relief on the state convention level.
“A church that has relationships in its community can respond quicker, more uniquely and with less money” than CSBC disaster relief units, Bivins said. “As churches respond to the needs in their community, not only do they get the credit, they are being the hands and feet of Jesus.”
In addition to PPE manufacturing, several California Southern Baptist churches have launched grocery distribution ministries for needy families during the pandemic. Congregations reporting to CSBC have distributed more than 2,700 loads of groceries that each can feed a family of four for a week. Other churches are engaging in similar ministries without formal reporting.
Sandals leaders long for more resources to expand their PPE ministry.
“We’re making as many [pieces of PPE] as we can with the raw materials we can purchase,” McCoy said. “That’s been the constraint.”
Hawaii Baptists donate meals to busy shelters
HONOLULU (BP) — Hawaii Baptist Academy and several Hawaii Pacific Baptist Convention (HPBC) churches on the island of Oahu are helping meet a growing need for more meals at two homeless shelters in Honolulu.
Prior to COVID-19, various churches and organizations, including HPBC churches, provided one meal a day to shelter occupants at the Next Step and Keahou Shelters. But with the state mandate to shelter-in-place, the shelters recognized an urgent need to provide an additional meal to ensure that their homeless guests do not leave the property in search of food.
“By providing more meals at our shelters, we will encourage our homeless guests to stay and shelter-in-place. Not only will we be following the state order, but we will also be doing our part to make sure that the coronavirus stops spreading in our communities,” said Kapua Tani, community support coordinator for Next Step and Keahou Shelters. “We are sincerely thankful to Hawaii Baptist Academy and the HPBC churches for their support.”
Nearly 200 lunch meals are prepared and delivered daily by chefs at Hawaii Baptist Academy, a K-12 school. Funding and resources to provide the meals also comes from the school and generous members of its community. Participating HPBC churches that serve and contribute to the Next Step and Keahou Shelters are OlaNui, Olivet Baptist Church and Waialae Baptist Church.
“I’m very grateful that we are able to help those in need during this unprecedented crisis,” said Ron Shiira, president of Hawaii Baptist Academy. “It’s wonderful that we’re able to use resources already available to us, especially our talented and hardworking chefs. We also appreciate the support we’ve received from our churches and families.”
The school anticipates serving more than 8,000 lunch meals while its campuses are closed due to the shelter-in-place order. The cost of providing 10 meals is $30 per day. Donations are being accepted online at hba.net.