Anybody out there ready to hear some good news, for once? 2020 seems to be all about the bad news. I see it all the time on Facebook, TV, and even in my inbox. It seems the only thing anybody wants to talk about these days is COVID-19 and why we should all be terrified by what it brings. However, there is some good news out there! In the middle of this storm, people are reaching out to make this season a bit more survivable—particularly for first responders.
I had the opportunity to talk with J.J. Bukowski, one of the founders of AZ Face Shields. This organization creates face shields to donate to first responders. In just a few short months, this organization has given away thousands of shields! J.J. told me how the idea for the organization was born and what the group has done to put a dent in this huge need.
Originally, the idea for the organization came from his friend Aiden, whose wife worked as a nurse in a hospital with a shortage of PPE. When J.J. heard that there was a need, it didn’t take much for him to decide to do something about it. “I really felt like it was something God wanted me to do, so I didn’t question it and jumped right in.” J.J., along with friends and family, created several face shields for her unit. Once they were finished, they realized they could reach even more front-line workers, including more nurses and firefighters. “Once we started telling people we were making them,” J.J. says, “It kind of exploded. I definitely underestimated how huge the need is.”
J.J.’s is a filmmaker, so he hasn’t been able to work during the shutdown. Instead, he’s channeled his time and energy into the face shield project. His family’s home is one of the sites where the shields are constructed. J.J. and his family punch holes in large, clear plastic sheets, which are used to protect the face. These are then attached to bands that are made using 3D printers or CNC machines. “Now we have someone injection molding them, which is going to be awesome!” J.J. adds.
Many people, mostly in Arizona’s filmmaking community, are working hard to make this undertaking a reality. “There is a large network of people working constantly to make this happen,” he explains. “My family is cutting the shields and packaging them for shipping.” Some people have volunteered to cut or print the headbands using tools they have at home. Others spend their time delivering the finished product to homes of nurses. Still others have contributed financially to the project, since there is no charge for those who benefit from the face shields. “We are donating directly to nurses, doctors and firefighters… It’s kind of an under the radar operation,” J.J. says.
Even though the organization is totally dependent on financial donations and volunteer labor, they have made a huge impact in the Phoenix area and across the United States. At the time of writing, they have donated over 2,000 of their face shields to first responders! As J.J. points out, “That’s 2000 first responders who can go to work with the tools they need.” And that’s 2,000 families who can have peace of mind during COVID-19.
With the immense need for PPE across the world, it’s hardly surprising that the organization is donating more face shields than are currently covered by donations. “Our expenses to purchase the supplies is still greater than the donations that have come in,” J.J. explains, “so we are still pouring in our own money to keep this thing going.”
If you’d like to join the effort, you can head to AZfaceshield.com and click “Donate Now.” AZ Face Shield is on Instagram and Facebook, too—you can connect with them to keep up with the work they are doing!
While the COVID-19 situation seems to drag on, there is reason for us to have hope. We can take heart because of people like those behind AZ Face Shields—they show us that even in the darkest times, kindness can overcome fear and bring communities together.
AUTHOR Breana Johnson is an American expat living on the Caribbean Island of Sint Maarten. She surfs, snorkels, and spearfishes when she’s not tutoring local kids or writing. If she could have any job title in the world, it would be Professional Hummus Taste Tester. For now, she’s settling for freelance travel writer. You can catch up on Breana’s adventures at her blog, www.3rdCultureWife.com. PODCAST FEATURE Listen to Breana on St. Maarten Travels that Transformed Lives