ALEXANDRIA, Va. — One thing that keeps us smiling through all of these difficult moments is the generosity of the DMV. People have been giving back and lifting up. Recently, that lift came from higher education.
The usually packed parking lots at Northern Virginia Community College are empty. The classrooms regularly filled with noise and activity are now abandoned. Everyone is at home learning through their computers, meaning the tools that are usually part of lessons are no longer needed on campus.
But the teachers and staff at NOVA realized that doesn't mean their tools and efforts aren't actually needed elsewhere during this pandemic.
"I'm a scientist and that's my training -- to problem solve," Associate Dean of Science Dr. Maggie Emblom said. "So, when I get that emotional feeling of ‘oh my goodness,’ the problem solver scientist in me wants to do what I can to try to help out and find a solution."
For Dr. Emblom, that solution became a donation drive.
"The personal protective equipment that we have, if we can give it to the community where it's desperately needed right now, then we wanted to do that," she said.
So far, the chemistry, biology, physics, geology and automotive departments have given almost 200 N95 masks, 3,000 gloves, 45 splash-proof goggles, 40 face masks, Ethanol pads and Concentrated Lysol to the Alexandria Health Department.
NOVA's EMS program also felt the giving spirit, donating to local emergency departments.
For some, like automotive instructor Laura Garcia, the effort was personal.
"My mother is a nurse," she said. "She graduated from a community college program and so I, of course, feel that I would like her to be safe and we really do want all of our medical community to be safe."
That's exactly what this equipment will do, according to Jasmin Johnson, Assistant Public Health Emergency Management Coordinator for the Alexandria Health District.
"I was elated," she said. "I was so happy when I went downstairs to pick it up!"
Johnson explained there was an early sense of panic when they realized their supplies were dwindling. These donations alleviated that panic for now.
"Like 'look what NOVA Community College left us,'" she remembers yelling. "They left us so much stuff, which means we're able to help those healthcare facilities that don't have any PPE at all."
The health department gives the resources to local places, including long-term care facilities, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Back at NOVA, helping their own community makes a difficult time, just a bit easier.
"It’s often difficult to sometimes realize where donations go," Garcia said. "To be able to have that strength in connection is really key and crucial and has always been important to us, but is especially important to us now."
The health department still needs more supplies, especially N-95s. Click here for more information on how to help.