Members of the local faith community moved mountains of personal protective equipment May 19, when pastors and members of 14 Bay Area Christian churches and organizations met up in Cupertino to prep 2 million surgical masks for distribution.
More than 100 volunteers came to Vallco Mall to pick up masks to be delivered to 500 organizations in seven Bay Area counties, including nursing homes, homeless shelters, food banks and hospitals. The effort was organized by the SHP Foundation and POP’s Foundation, who sourced and procured the masks. The SHP Foundation was founded by Peter and Susanna Pau of Sand Hill Property Company, the Palo Alto developers seeking to turn the empty Vallco Mall into a mixed-use town center.
POP’s Foundation was founded by Ken Yeung, president of the U.S. subsidiary of Prince of Peace Enterprises, Inc., a Chinese company with Northern California offices in Livermore.
Yeung told the assembled volunteers that importing PPE from China was no easy task.
“I thought getting face masks would be a piece of cake,” he said. “Boy, I was so wrong. … It was crazy and chaotic.”
Now that a pipeline has been established, Yeung added, his foundation is expecting another million masks by the end of the month.
While the masks serve a utilitarian purpose in the fight against the coronavirus, Yueng stressed that this effort is also about fellowship.
“A lot of people are really hurting,” he said. “They need more than the masks; we want to let each person know as we deliver the masks that we care.”
Jim Gallagher from Cathedral of Faith in San Jose said in an interview that his church is distributing masks to the 60 or so nursing homes its parishioners visit on a regular basis. These visits have ceased during “shelter in place,” and Gallagher said the mask project is a good way to stay connected with patients there.
Pastor Paul Bains of Project WeHope in East Palo Alto said his group had 26 volunteers collecting masks for distribution to shelters, first responders, and healthcare workers—“anyone who’s working with the homeless.”
Bains said Project WeHope started collecting masks in February. When he brought the group’s efforts to Susanna Pau’s attention, he added, her response was, “We can do it bigger.”
To that end, Project WeHope was awarded a $20,000 grant from Silicon Valley Community Foundation to buy masks and is working with Destination: Home to distribute them to area homeless people.
Lorena Diez from San Jose’s Homelessness Response Team was picking up 2,000 masks for clients at the five emergency shelters the city has set up for the duration of the “shelter in place” order.
“This is so we can assure that there’s no shortage of masks for our clients,” Diez said.
It took volunteers less than an hour to load up their vehicles and get the masks on the road. Pete Sung of the SHP Foundation said the experience was an uplifting one.
“It’s good to see the spirit of hope in the community,” Sung said.
Photo by Jacqueline Ramseyer