NEW YORK — Not all heroes wear capes, but they all deserve shields.
In the early weeks of the pandemic, with the number of COVID-19 cases skyrocketing across the state and nation, the need for potentially lifesaving personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline essential workers could not be quenched.
In the meantime, a few creative volunteers were feeling helpless, yet eager to help their fellow New Yorkers in some way. The result was the creation of Shields for Heroes, an all-volunteer, not-for-profit organization that has manufactured and delivered more than 12,000 protective face shields for workers throughout New York City.
Several CSEA locals with high numbers of frontline workers were among the fortunate recipients.
“We are thrilled to be hooked up with CSEA because your members have a real need,” said Amelia Modlin, Shields for Heroes’ Director of Operations. “It allows us a streamlined method to get the gear to the people who need it most.”
Hundreds of shields were delivered to Staten Island DDSO, Manhattan Psychiatric Center, the Guild for Exceptional Children, Creedmoor Psychiatric Center and the New York State Veterans Home in St. Albans, Queens.
“This is so great,” said Staten Island DDSO Local President Jeanette Mitchell, whose local was among the first to receive a shipment. “This is like Christmas and your birthday wrapped up in one.”
Many members and individuals at the group residences run by Staten Island DDSO were infected by the coronavirus, and several of the infected passed away.
“I wish we could have gotten these shields weeks earlier,” said Mitchell. “Because we had so little PPE, I believe that’s why we were hit so hard.”
Modlin, who has been volunteering with Shields since early March, is an art director and member
Shielding our heroes on the front lines of IATSE Local 52 that represents prop masters and stagehands. The organization works with dozens of volunteers who provide the materials, make the masks and deliver the finished product.
“We applied the skills we knew and learned a few more and we are so thrilled to have found a way to give back to the people who are the front lines every day,” said Modlin.
The brainchild of Shields for Heroes and its president and founder is Dickey DiBella. Modlin said comic book heroes were on their minds when he drew on the inspiration of real-life heroes on the front lines, saving lives and risking their own, hence the name of the nonprofit.
“We are small operation, but we are growing,” said Modlin. They continue to raise money on their website and are hoping to increase their outreach beyond the five boroughs.
Modlin emphasized that there are no paid employees involved in this effort. “100 percent of our fundraising goes into making PPE and distributing it to those in need,” Modlin said.
Learn more about Shields for Heroes at shieldsforheroes.org.
— David Galarza