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Dancers, designers and students are creating protective masks to donate to the frontline during shortages. Artists are selling their work to help feed nurses. Entrepreneurs are launching relief funds and distributing free meals to those most vulnerable. Librarians distribute free copies of unemployment applications. Distillery shifts its efforts from producing rum to making hand sanitizers. 

The outbreak of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) took many of us by surprise. What hasn’t surprised us at IMPACT.EDITION are the stories of courage and kindness percolating above the fear and confusion.

We'll continue to update this page during the COVID-19 pandemic and hope these stories inspire you to contribute to their causes or find your own way to help others while following CDC guidelines.

by Yulia Strokova, Samantha Schalit

THE PROBLEM: There's a dire shortage of personal protective equipment. THE SOLUTION: Have sewing machine? Get to it.

"I am donating 500 washable face masks for first responders at Mount Sinai Medical Center & Miami Beach Police," wrote Ximena Caminos, a designer and curator, to her 35K+ Instagram followers. "I challenge you to match me."

Ximena was among the first of Miami's art influencers that quickly responded to the urgent need. She ordered the reusable cotton and bamboo masks from her friend, Carolyn Finlayson, a fashion designer and tailor who pivoted her business from sewing clothing to making masks once COVID-19 began spreading across the US.

The Miami City Ballet team, which now livestreams its dance classes via social media, is fast at work as well. MCB's Costume Department is creating functional, protective masks for patients, families and staff at Nicklaus Children's Hospital.

"At Miami City Ballet, we are here because of you, and now, we are here for you," said Lourdes Lopez, Artistic Director of MCB. "I, too, must be generous. And I, too, must be there for others and be present. If ever there was a time to stay calm, look outward rather than inward, and find the humanity this art form has ingrained in all of us, now is the time."

In response to the shortage of personal protective equipment, FIU's College of Communication, Architecture & The Arts mobilized its 3D printing facilities to produce a minimum of 1,000 face shields. The first batch of face shields, made from non-toxic polylactic acid, was delivered to Baptist Health last week. 

Millions of N95 masks and PPE are also being produced by FIGS, a leading retail company with offices in Miami and Los Angeles. In 2013, FIGS entered the untouched, archaic industry of producing medical scrubs and reinvented them to create stylish, functional apparel for healthcare professionals. They're donating $100,000 to the Frontline Responders Fund plus 30,000 sets of scrubs to hospitals impacted most by COVID-19. 

Third Way Volunteers movement, founded by Dr. Alisson Thompson almost 20 years ago, has always been on the frontlines of providing medical, recovery relief. Thanks to volunteers' efforts, they have already sent out 260,000 N95 masks to hospitals, fire rescue departments, police. Please think about a donation here - everyones needed.

THE PROBLEM: Due to an overloaded state computer system and jammed phone lines, jobless Floridians have struggled to process unemployment claims. THE SOLUTION: Have printer and paper? Please assist those who have lost their jobs.

The Miami-Dade Public Library employees help unemployed with no access to the internet or a printer. The team provides free paper copies of unemployment applications along with an envelope, at 26 locations across Miami. Residents can drive by or walk up and return it at the library's regular book drop.

The librarians also help residents by distributing food, medical and temporary cash assistance applications, answering your questions, and providing virtual storytimes, tutoring and activities online.

THE PROBLEM: Using hand sanitizer frequently has become second nature for many, which is why it's not hard to believe that the demand currently outweighs the supply. THE SOLUTION: Turn high-proof rum into hand sanitizer.

A West Miami-Dade distillery has shifted its efforts from producing rum to making hand sanitizer to help the South Florida community during the coronavirus pandemic. “We’re just glad, and we’re blessed we can do this,” said Matt Malone, the Miami Club Rum distillery’s owner.

The company donated hundreds of bottles of “Miami Strong” hand sanitizers to hospitals and first responders. They also intend to give about 10% of total production to those on the front lines until the crisis is over.

THE PROBLEM: Hunger has been a problem long before the pandemic. Now, many are going hungry amidst school closures and social distancing. THE SOLUTION: Create partnerships that keep funding and supply up.

Every day Food Rescue US Miami volunteer team, led by Ellen Bowen, distributes meals to hungry, unemployed, and food-insecure populations. During the pandemic, Food Rescue US Miami has partnered with many local restaurants that have inventory and kitchen staff but can't safely provide dine-in service right now. Together, they volunteer to feed doctors, nurses, and other healthcare staff who are on the frontlines of this fight.

Museum of Graffiti and famed Miami artist @aholsniffsglue have teamed up to sell 100 limited edition posters for $40 each and send 100% of the proceeds to Feeding South Florida, another large food bank serving Miami, Broward, Palm Beach, and Monroe Counties. Any donation makes a difference! 

With over 46,000 school closings in the US due to the outbreak, many children are at risk of going hungry. Over 14.7 million public school students depend on the School Breakfast Program, and over 30 million depend on the National School Lunch Program as their sources of nutrition. Most of us are fortunate enough to not have to worry about our next meal. Many others are not. 

THE PROBLEM: Remember the 46,000 school closings we just talked about? With most families stuck at home together 24/7, parents are parenting without the usual help from teachers, day cares, and family.THE SOLUTION: Virtual education and creative at-home play.

Caribu, a Miami-based education platform, helps families do more than video chat with their children when they're not able to get together in-person; it allows loved ones to read, draw and play games with younger family members for meaningful connection. During the pandemic, they've opened 60 days of free access to their platform with support from AT&T. The video-calling app with integrated books and activities has over 200,000 downloads and users in over 150 countries. 

"Caribu was created to make families feel like they're together when circumstances won't allow it," founder Max Tuchman said. "This is a challenging time for all of us. So, whether it's reading a bedtime story with a grandparent who's a thousand miles away – or one who can't leave their home just down the street – this contribution from AT&T lets us keep those important connections alive.”

P.S. We want to highlight as many community crusaders as we can. Please feel free to share your story and information about local activities aimed to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.


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