BY GABRIELE HOLTERMANN
A steady stream of Kings County Hospital and University Hospital of Brooklyn employees braved the cold winds on Jan. 27 by standing on line to pick up free PPE donated by Cut Red Tape 4 Heroes.
Two trucks filled with PPE were waiting for about 3,000 hospital employees, which Rhonda Roland Shearer, the co-founder of Cut Red Tape 4 Heroes, and a group of about 40 volunteers began handing out at about 10:30 a.m.
The month’s worth of supplies included packets of hand wipes, boxes of surgical masks, packs of K95 masks, disposable hair bonnets, and hand sanitizer intended as either supplementing gear provided by the hospital or for home use.
Among the volunteers who helped facilitate the drive included retired and active FDNY members, the New York State Chaplain Task Force, as well as volunteers from Housing Works and Cut Red Tape 4 Heroes.
Roland Shearer is no stranger to helping the community when tragedy strikes. After 9/11, she started a supply operation handing out protective gear to first responders. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last March, leaving many hospital workers scrambling for life-saving PPE, she took out an $800,000 loan to buy kits for those on the frontline.
Roland Shearer told amNY that in the beginning, hospitals wanted the organization to hand out PPE to medical staff only. However, she was adamant that the equipment should go to all hospital workers.
“I wanted to give it to electricians, painters, people at the front desk, security,” she said. “They absolutely didn’t have it, and they are the first ones to not be given it.”
Jorge, a painter at Kings County Hospital for the past ten years, felt that the PPE was a great gift.
“This helps everybody, at home and at work. I’m going to take this home because we need this at home too,” he said.
Despite the chilly temperatures, Kings County Hospital and University Hospital of Brooklyn employees waited patiently, and at times cheerfully, in a growing line to pick up their supplies. Many expressed their appreciation that the community and Cut Red Tape 4 Heroes had not forgotten about them.
“I think it is a wonderful endeavor. Because at this point with the resurgence in COVID, you think people forgot a little bit about it, but we are still here on the frontline,” registered nurse Elizabeth Burnett said. “It is so important that we stay vigilant, protecting our community and each other. I’m so thankful that you think about us and you showed up for us.”
When asked by amNY if the need for PPE was still as urgent as it was at the beginning of the pandemic, Roland Shearer explained it depends on how one measures need.
“I think people are exhausted,” she said. “So if they have a financial respite where they don’t have to buy PPE and have kind of a psychological boost where people are out here and giving it to them, and then, when they use them, they remember that. I think that idea of community and connectedness can be healing and energizing.”
Since March 2020, the organization has handed out more than 3.4 million items of PPE to more than 200,000 hospital, nursing home and homeless shelter workers, veterans, and NYCHA residents in all five boroughs. Cut Red Tape 4 Heroes is a not-for-profit Art Science Research Laboratory project in partnership with Housing Works. If you wish to donate to the organization, please go to www.cutredtape4heroes.org.