COVID-19 is seemingly holding the world and the U.S. economy hostage, making it difficult to acquire just about anything these days. A mask, a pair of latex gloves, a face shield. These items are collectively known as personal protective equipment (PPE), a necessity for health-care workers. With border closures spanning multiple countries, stockhouses barren and store shelves empty, manufacturers are scrambling to gather supplies to meet the increasingly desperate demand for PPE. Despite all the chaos, the veteran-centric community of the Central Valley heeded the call to help meet the need for the VA Central California Health Care System.
Commander JD Bennett, American Legion Post 23, Sanger, and VAVS Executive Committee member for The American Legion, had the idea to partner with a local high school after seeing a story in the news about Career Technical Education Charter (CTEC) School donating masks to a hospital in the area. “CTEC director John Delano is a friend, so I reached out, appealing on behalf of the VA hospital,” said Bennett. “All I had to say was ‘veterans,’ and John was all in!” With Delano on-board, it was simply a matter of bringing all the pieces together. Bennett sought the aid of VA Voluntary Service (VAVS) program manager Mary Golden to see how best to support the hospital. She contacted Chief Safety Officer David Smith. “We need PPE to keep the staff and the veterans safe,” said Smith.
With the help of the Safety Dept, VAVS, The American Legion and CTEC Charter School, all of the pieces had been gathered, and all that was left to do was put together the proverbial puzzle. “When JD (Bennett) came to me with the idea, I was all for it,” said Delano. “American Legion Post 23 assisted with the funding for the materials, and our supplier was able to deliver and the staff were all for it! It was a perfect match and a great way for our new high school to support our community.” It took less than a week for 500 approved masks with face shields to be delivered to the VA hospital in Fresno, Calif. The masks came in several vibrant colors, The masks were made from PLA, the raw material used in 3D printing.
Medical Center Director Charles Benninger received the masks and face shields, along with Golden. Bennett personally made the delivery on Wednesday, April 15, 2020. “I can’t say enough about this community. Their love and appreciation for veterans can really be seen everywhere you look,” said Benninger.