Kent State Geauga and Twinsburg Academic Center Faculty & Staff Volunteer During Coronavirus Crisis

Answering the Call

We’re all doing our part by working and studying from home, exercising social distancing, and forgoing our regular routines to flatten the curve. But several individuals from the Kent State University Geauga Campus and Twinsburg Academic Center community have gone the extra mile by rolling up their sleeves and working with the front lines to combat the coronavirus.

First, nursing faculty members and students are working in area hospitals during the COVID-19 crisis. Jessica Larubina, Lecturer for the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program, is working as a PRN at Hillcrest Hospital Cleveland Clinic in Mayfield Heights. Meanwhile, Kent State Geauga and Twinsburg Academic Center students are working as patient care nursing assistants (PCNAs) while juggling online college classes, namely Lauren Briggs, Nicole Brown, Katelynn Justice (all at Hillcrest), and Brittany Gall at Bainbridge Urgent Care.

Meanwhile, Associate of Applied Science degree in Nursing (ADN) Program Director Donna Casey and Nursing Skills Lab Coordinator Jana Sovacol responded to a call from CNO Julie Van Dyk of UH Ahuja to use the nine hospital beds that are usually housed in the ADN nursing lab. The beds were picked up on April 3 by a moving company from Strongsville, which is donating its time and delivery methods to the cause. This is in addition to a loan of BSN lab beds to UH Geauga organized by Melissa Owen, the BSN program coordinator. The beds were picked up April 6 in preparation for an expected surge in hospital visits due to COVID-19 cases.

Since official protocol now advises that each of us wears a face mask in public, Dean’s Office Senior Secretary Miranda Skitzki has invited faculty and staff members to participate in a grassroots mask-making drive (no sewing skills required!).

“I am very grateful to the members of our campus who have reached out and offered to help with this project,” Skitzki says. “Although we are all helping by staying home, it can sometimes still feel like there is nothing we can do. This project has helped me avoid that feeling and has given me a sense of purpose during all the uncertainty in our lives at the moment, and I hope it does the same for our other volunteers.”

Mask donations are going to Geauga County’s eight nursing homes, UH Geauga, and Ravenwood Health. If anyone donating supplies has a specific facility in mind, Skitzki will try to donate the finished masks made from those supplies to that facility.

In nursing homes, these masks are used by staff and residents to stop the spread of the virus. In the hospitals, masks are made available to (1) Visitors to the facilities; (2) Patients being attended to at drive-thru testing facilities; and (3) COVID-19 patients, as an alternative to surgical masks (only if they cannot tolerate other masks), as stated on the University Hospitals website.

Skitzki sent detailed instructions to faculty and staff members who replied to her email invitation, explaining the three ways they could help: donation of supplies, material preparation, and mask sewing.

Volunteers have been encouraged to make this a zero-cost project, using materials they have at home rather than purchasing new ones. This approach is modeled from the system in place on the Kent campus, operated by Andrew Snyder and Heidi Weisel of People Protecting Each Other Sustainably and their partner, the Socially Responsible Sweatshop of Kent.

Skitzki provided three mask patterns as options, but participants can use any pattern they may prefer. “Most of the people who offered to sew had already started before I contacted them,” Skitzki says. “I told them to continue to do what was working for them, but reach out to me if they needed any more supplies or help with distribution. Anyone who wishes to help with donation or preparation of materials can contact me to coordinate porch pickup. The same goes for the finished masks. If those sewing wish to make donations themselves, they are welcome to do so, as long as they document where and how many masks were donated.”

As of April 9, Danielle Weiser-Cline had donated 72 masks to first responders in Ashtabula County, Annie Brust has donated 20 masks to Cleveland Clinic through Pins and Needles and 15 masks to local teachers and nurses in Cleveland Heights schools and Kenston schools, and Skitzki donated 45 to Ohman Family Living at Holly and 20 to Ravenwood Health, with more to come each passing day.

Kent State Geauga and Twinsburg Academic Center faculty and staff who have answered the call to date include Dean Angela Spalsbury, Susan Emens, Judy Paternite, Mary Lynn Delfino, Melissa Owen, Valerie Rutherford, Tracy Jarden, Reina Taylor, Betty Roberts, Annie Brust, Vania Alvarez-Minah, Kerry Myers, Danielle Weiser-Cline, Julie Evey, Bethany Begeot, Rae Ann Byers and Miranda Skitzki. If additional faculty/staff members want to get involved, simply contact Miranda Skitzki.

Any students or community members can support the mask-making effort by visiting UH’s website. They have established a system for anyone to pick up mask kits and return the finished masks to one of their facilities. 

“I first got involved in this project because my mom and sister both work at a nursing home, and my dad is an essential worker at a beverage distributor,” Skitzki shares. “While they are out working hard to keep others protected and provided for, I felt that it was my responsibility to help keep them safe. I have the skills and materials to make the masks, so I felt it would be irresponsible of me to stand by and do nothing. I hope other members of our campus can recognize their talents and resources and feel the same way. The more help we have, the more masks we can make, and the more people we can protect.”

POSTED: Monday, April 20, 2020 - 9:05am
UPDATED: Tuesday, May 19, 2020 - 4:37pm