In February 2020, we were just starting to hear of a new virus spreading around the world — and we were learning of personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages at many hospitals. That’s when we made the call to our community for donations of PPE and other items to support our frontline workers.
University of Washington (UW) junior Alex Fu, a longtime Virginia Mason patient and volunteer, was one of the many who answered that call. He worked with family and friends who are part of an organization called United Chinese Americans to purchase N95 masks from China and donate them to Virginia Mason.
“We wanted to give back to the community,” Alex says. “Volunteering at Virginia Mason has shown me how hard these health care professionals work. Doing something to support them, even if I couldn’t be there physically, meant a lot to me.”
Supporters like Alex equipped Virginia Mason with over 90,000 masks and countless other in-kind donations (donations of goods and services) since the start of the pandemic. Gifts from our community helped ensure that our teams had the equipment they needed to be as safe as possible.
In-kind donations went far beyond PPE: At the height of the pandemic, 85 restaurants and individuals donated over 18,000 meals for our staff.
“Staff members are under immense pressure at home and at work, but they need to be a rock for patients,” says Marilyn Nemerever, RN, senior director of acute care. “When we get these donations, it's nice to know that the community is behind us.”
Donors also stepped in with gifts of technology like cameras and headsets to help our providers pivot to virtual medicine during a global shortage of these items. And frontline staff won’t soon forget a visit from NBA player and former UW basketball star Dejounte Murray. The Seattle native visited campus to recognize critical care teams and donated nearly 600 pairs of sneakers to help keep care teams comfortable during long hours on their feet.
“Doing this work is our care team’s calling, and their mission is providing the highest quality of care for our community,” says Karin Huelsbeck, senior director at the Virginia Mason Foundation. “But the pandemic has been a marathon of stress and strain; It's been the challenge of a lifetime. This kind of support shows providers that their community is behind them, cheering them on — that has an incredible impact.”