Triton College officials donated thousands of pieces of PPE to area first responders and healthcare workers this week. | Courtesy Triton College/Facebook

As medical workers and first responders face a critical shortage of much-needed personal protective equipment, local schools have stepped up to donate their own supplies to workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last month, Oak Park and River Forest High School officials — including teachers Paul Noble and Amy McGrail, and Associate Superintendent Greg Johnson — scoured the building and found more than 20,000 disposable gloves and goggles from science labs to donate to Rush University Medical Center.

Noble was prompted to organize the effort after getting a call from Evie Kavinsky, the mother of one of his former students. Kavinsky’s husband is a cardiologist at Rush who was going to be caring for COVID-19 patients. The hospital was “short on protective eyewear to care for these patients,” according to WBEZ, which picked the story up last month.

“These goggles are going to be at a premium in September and while we find new ones every year, we may be hard pressed to find them in September,” Noble told WBEZ. “So [students] may not be doing any labs in the fall — labs that have any danger or toxicity of any kind they may not be able to do, but it seems obvious this was a more urgent need.”

Area colleges have also chipped in, with Dominican University and Triton College recently donating personal protective equipment from their respective science departments.

Dominican University in River Forest collected PPE from its Borra College of Health Sciences, as well as the biology, chemistry, art and theater programs, said Jessica Mackinnon, the college’s public information director.

Mackinnon said the school donated “approximately 50,000 gloves and 3,000 masks to area medical centers and first responders, including the River Forest Police Department, Loyola University Medical Center, Alivio Medical Center and Mount Sinai Hospital. We also sent some PPE to the St. Dominic Villa at the Mound, the Sinsinawa Dominican Sisters motherhouse in Wisconsin, and have reserved some PPE for our own expected purposes.”

Triton College donated roughly 9,000 gloves; 2,000 masks; 600 gowns; and hundreds of caps, shoe covers and biohazard bags to the fire and police departments of River Grove, Norwood Park and Leyden; Loyola University Medical Center; Gottlieb Memorial Hospital; Rush Oak Park Hospital; and Cantata Adult Life Services.

The supplies came from the college’s Health Careers & Public Service programs, Engineering Technology, Chemistry & Biology, and the Center for Health Professionals, officials said.

“Triton College continues to be a resource to our local community especially during challenging times. Around the world and across the region people are pulling together and deciding how to best support healthcare workers as they care for the sick. We are fortunate to be able to donate much needed resources to support our local community,” said Paul Jensen, associate vice president of academic innovation and workforce education.

If you have any supplies you’re interested in donating, email state officials at Include in the email the quantities you have of each item and your address to determine the best drop-off point.

Join the discussion on social media!