LENOX — Members of a local family sidelined at home during the COVID-19 lockdown have organized a team of volunteers, including five Lenox Memorial Middle and High School graduates and a teacher, to produce 3D-printed face shields and visors for frontline health care workers.
Artist Jess Blazejewski, a Lenox native who lives in Natick and runs an online fine arts business, and her sister and town resident Katherine Carberry, a graphic design and project manager, put together the nonprofit, all-volunteer venture, Massachusetts Face Shields, to fill the urgent need for personal protective equipment.
They also enlisted their mom, Dawn Carberry, a Lenox resident since 1980 and most recently a biotech recruiter for Lenox Executive Search, as part of a group that included Matt Cote, a science and technology teacher at the middle and high school. His mission: to produce a modified 3D visor design intended to be more cost-effective and efficient.
Other volunteer members include Lenox graduates Jenna McCarthy and Tamsen Conner, as well as younger sister Megan Carberry, of San Diego, who handles social media outreach.
Blazejewski, aware of the PPE shortage, was inspired to help organize the group after seeing a message from an emergency room nurse on a Facebook group seeking help to obtain 3D printer face shields.
Blazejewski, creating a new Facebook group with her two daughters based in Lenox, set up a team to produce the 3D printer face shield visor, and a second team to assemble the entire shield.
At the same time, Dawn Carberry reached out to William Cameron, the interim superintendent for Lenox Public Schools, to help recruit Cote to assist with the technology.
"Matt has been an incredible volunteer as technical adviser, coming up with creative solutions, thinking outside the box with bigger and better ideas for different ways of sourcing materials," she said. "He has been filled with enthusiasm and graciousness; he's been everything to us."
For his part, Cote explained that when he found that the 3D visors were not a good fit for the shields previously purchased, he photo-typed a new design provided by Dawn Carberry that turned out to be correct.
He also contacted metal fabrication teachers at McCann Tech in North Adams so that the entire shield could be manufactured by the volunteer team, with plastic injection molds provided by Pen-Ro Group of Pittsfield and material supplied by Polymer Resources of Farmington, Conn.
"We're very hopeful to fulfill the remaining requests now that we can produce more than one visor per minute," Cote said.
Buoyed by a surge of donors through word-of-mouth and social media, the organization of more than 100 volunteers statewide now uses CauseVox, a fundraising platform designed for nonprofits. So far, about $5,000 has been raised.
As of Wednesday, more than 1,300 face shields have been distributed through word-of-mouth and social media to facilities in 11 counties statewide, including Hillcrest Commons in Pittsfield, Bay State Medical Center in Springfield, Highview of Northampton Nursing Home, Visiting Angels Senior Home Care in Holyoke, UMass Memorial Health Care, Franciscan Children's Hospital near Boston and Lowell Hospital.
Production has ramped up to try to meet the demand — nearly 10,000 requests for the shields are awaiting delivery.
"Living in the Berkshires, I always knew people here were wonderful," Dawn Carberry said. "This really brings it back home. Everyone I've spoken to has wanted to help, in multiple supportive, enthusiastic ways. I'm really happy we raised our family here, and it makes me proud to be part of the Berkshires."
Katherine Carberry said she has found it inspiring "to see how willing volunteers have been to step up and help other people in a time of crisis."
As co-founder Blazejewski stated: "I'm glad that we took this idea and ran with it, and it's really nice to be able to help from our homes, since we can't be together. It hasn't felt lonely as we talk to one another. It's a way to keep connected with people."
She has heard from nurses who have received the shields voicing gratitude, since going without the PPE at first was terrifying, since it's crucial to protect their families.
As for the future of Massachusetts Face Shields, "we've definitely talked about it," said Katherine Carberry. "It depends on how we do with donations; we've gotten good support, and we're going to need more to purchase supplies. Each face shield costs $5 to produce, and it's important to be able to donate these to help health care professionals; we didn't want to ask them to purchase them."
She credited Sampco Cos., a marketing materials group, for helping to explore ways to mass-produce the shields.
"I feel, personally, extremely rewarded for having the chance to be involved in this," Cote said. "When you turn on the news in the middle of this pandemic, it's pretty clear it's bringing out the worst in a lot of people but the best in a lot of little people. I can't do big things for the world, but to be able to do some of the smaller things, trying to do my little part, feels really good."
Clarence Fanto can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter @BE_cfanto or at 413-637-2551.