RVCC Community Responds to Pandemic

Friday, August 28, 2020
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From creating Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for frontline workers, to providing food and supplies to those in need, to offering webinars focusing on resilience during difficult times—the RVCC community has rallied together during the COVID-19 pandemic, bringing a sense of positivity and hope.

RVCC Heroes

Throughout the pandemic, our RVCC “Heroes”—the men and women on the front lines of the crisis—continue to inspire us. Countless RVCC students, alumni, and faculty members have been risking their lives to keep people safe and healthy, ensuring that everyone has the necessary goods and services during the pandemic. From nurses, to patient care technicians, to emergency medical responders, to police officers and firefighters, to mental health social workers, to retail and grocery store workers, to car mechanics and much more, these Heroes have been taking care of everyone during a very challenging period.

On the sidelines, many members of the RVCC community have been doing their part to help others through the crisis. Early in the pandemic, Sarah Ordway, an Adjunct Instructor in the Humanities, Social Science, Social Work and Education Department, launched a program to send cards to seniors in Jersey City who were feeling isolated during the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to working as an advanced practice nurse on a palliative care unit, Nursing Professor Mary Ann Balut helped keep RVCC Food Pantry supplies available and created educational videos about protecting people against COVID-19.

Donations of PPE

Several members of the RVCC community have created and donated PPE to assist those on the front lines. The College’s Advanced Manufacturing program teamed up with Somerset County Vocational & Technical High School and Rutgers University’s Environmental Health and Safety Team, with assistance from RVCC’s Engineering program and the Arts & Design Department, to create 3D-printed face-shields to protect frontline healthcare workers. The College’s Rotaract Club also assisted with cleaning and assembling the PPE. The valiant effort produced 3,000 shields that were donated to Robert Wood Johnson University Hospitals New Brunswick and Somerset, as well as the Middlesex Emergency Medical Services center. Additional face-shields were sent to the Colombian Surgical Society to assist its efforts in South America.

The face-shields team included Conrad Mercurius, Coordinator of RVCC’s Advanced Manufacturing program; Peter Stupak, RVCC Assistant Professor of Engineering and Physics; John Juliano from the Rotary Club of Branchburg; Rotaract past President Maria Arevalo Mojica, an Advanced Manufacturing student; Rutgers graduate Nathan Moore; RVCC Engineering Club President Michael Compagnino; Tyler Moore, a Ceramics and Sculpture Studio Technician from the College’s Arts & Design Department; Somerset County Votech teacher Daniel Dalfonzo; and David Bilia, a former student in the College's Mechatronics, Engineering and Advanced Manufacturing (MEAM) program. Vandana Nadkarni, RVCC Professor of Art History and Co-Chair of the Arts & Design Department, and John Reinking, Sculpture Coordinator in the Arts & Design Department, also were heavily involved with the project.

Maria Arevalo Mojica and Rutgers student Jack Hemphill handled sourcing, production, logistics, and distribution of the PPE for the respective groups. Other Rotaract members from RVCC and Rutgers involved with cleaning and assembling the face-shields include Rosa Priego, RVCC; Ronald Ariza Chavez, RVCC; Lauren Wougk, Rutgers University, a graduate of RVCC’s Honors College; Nareena Iman, Rutgers University; and Jeremy Muniz, Rutgers University.

Several members of the RVCC community have been involved with creating and donating face masks. RVCC tutor Richa Gupta, co-founder of Knit Crochet with Love, guided her organization to create close to 9,000 masks and surgical caps for frontline healthcare workers. Recognizing the need for critical Personal Protection Equipment, RVCC students Gillian Rock and Christopher Clark hand-cut and sewed 75 face masks that were donated to hospital workers at Lehigh Valley Hospital. After a member of the Bedminster Township Police Department unexpectedly passed away in April from complications related to COVID-19, Gillian and Christopher sewed an additional 24 custom masks featuring the Bedminster Police Department logo, as well as the fallen officer’s badge number. The protective masks were worn by the Bedminster officers and family members during the funeral.

RVCC Nursing faculty member Liz O’Neill and her daughter Melissa Libby have sewn protective masks and distributed them free of charge to public health workers, seniors, children and others who needed them. And Honors College student Juliana Gonzalez-Rivas has created washable cotton face masks, donating a mask to a local hospital for every mask that is purchased.

Campus Resource Center/Food Pantry

Throughout the pandemic, RVCC’s Campus Resource Center and Food Pantry has remained available to assist students in need, providing groceries to over 200 individuals and their families, nearly $4,000 in ShopRite gift cards, as well as information and referrals to additional food pantries and community resources. Emergency assistance also has been provided to assist students who are ineligible for the federal CARES Act funds, primarily helping with utility and phone bills, rent payments, car repairs, and purchasing textbooks. The Resource Center and Food Pantry is staffed by student coordinators Jennifer Clock and Catherine Culbert.

Stories of Resilience

Drawing from the strength of Holocaust survivors and their descendants, the RVCC Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Center presented a number of virtual programs this past spring and summer to help people cope during the pandemic. Focusing on the theme of “Resilience During Challenging Times: Testimonies (and Books) that Provide Hope,” the webinars included testimonies from Holocaust survivors and their family members, as well as stories of refugees, shared through lectures, film screenings and book discussions. In total, more than 1,100 people participated in the programs, logging on throughout the United States as well as in Israel, Brazil, Germany, South Africa and Canada.