In a massive effort to ease the strain on local health care providers, members of Palo Alto's Chinese American community are raising funds and purchasing thousands of masks for hospitals, first responders and senior care facilities.
The community as of Thursday has donated more than 50,000 masks, including surgical masks and KN95 or N95 masks, to local hospitals, senior centers, grocery stores, post offices and neighbors through individual or self-organized group efforts, said Debra Cen, co-founder and board member of Palo Alto-based nonprofit WizChinese.
The effort reflects their dedication to their adopted country and a strong commitment to making beneficial contributions to American society, they said.
In one effort spearheaded by Jennifer Liu and Carol Wu, about 230 people donated nearly $15,000 to purchase 300 unopened boxes of Level 2 surgical masks, close to 15,000 masks in total, Liu said. They initiated the campaign after hearing a plea for personal protective equipment, or PPE, from a Stanford hospital employee and collected the funds in less than 10 days.
The group used the popular Chinese social networking site WeChat to promote the campaign. All of the masks were quickly distributed to organizations in need, including Stanford Hospital, Palo Alto Medical Foundation; Kaiser Permanente; University of California, San Francisco; Santa Clara Valley Medical Center; ANX Home Healthcare and Hospice; Stevenson House; Lytton Gardens, the Palo Alto Fire Department; Care Indeed; Project WeHope's homeless shelter; local seniors; and others, she said.
"We have been wanting to contribute more to society. We are from China but we are Americans. We feel America is our home and we want to do our best to make America better. We want to make our society better," she said.
Liu said that the Chinese American community has been organizing for some time and they are offering help wherever there is a need. In March, the group also distributed food to homebound seniors.
The Palo Alto Chinese Parents Club, which since 2014 has operated under WizChinese, has also hosted a Chinese New Year Fair for the past four years. The event raises cultural awareness and also donates $7,000 annually to Palo Alto Unified School District to support students. When news of the first U.S. cases of COVID-19 came to light in late January, the group canceled its Feb. 16 event, which typically draws thousands of people.
WizChinese launched a fundraising effort on inKynd with a goal of raising $14,000, Cen said. The fundraising effort began in February, initially to support doctors and nurses in Wuhan, China who were fighting the virus where it first broke out.
"With the fast recovery of Wuhan from the pandemic and the urgent need of masks in our community, WizChinese repurposed the fund to purchase masks from China to donate to our community. In addition, WizChinese also encouraged the Chinese community to donate masks directly to their neighbors or through WizChinese for distributing to our community. So far, over 4,500 surgical masks and 800 KN-95 masks (a total value of $4,338) have been donated by WizChinese to Ravenswood Family Health Center, Palo Alto University Rotary Club, PAUSD and community members," she said in an email on Thursday.
Donors have three ways to give: donate cash; sell goods, services or professional experience that are purchased by other donors for cash to the campaign; or add a "wish list" item they'd like to purchase. When another donor makes the "wish list" item available on the website, the first donor can "buy" it with money that goes to the campaign. People have thus far dominated everything from gift cards to silk pajamas to tips on building an accessory dwelling unit.
Cen said all residents are invited to join their fundraising efforts.
"This campaign is a great way to bring people in our community together. Also, this campaign is different from all other campaigns since it allows people to contribute through selling or buying on the inKynd market, so it (allows) anyone and everyone … to contribute," she said.
Find comprehensive coverage on the Midpeninsula's response to the new coronavirus by Palo Alto Online, the Mountain View Voice and the Almanac here.