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STORY UPDATED 9:45 P.M. SUNDAY, MARCH 22:
SANDWICH – A Sandwich-based vocational school, along with several businesses and television shows, have been donating personal protective equipment to health workers who are on the front lines helping people infected with the COVID-19 coronavirus, according to Illinois state officials.
Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker said during his daily COVID-19 related news conference on Sunday, March 22, that Indian Valley Vocational Center, or IVVC, out of Sandwich – along with production teams and casts of TV shows "Chicago Med," "Chicago PD" and "Chicago Fire" – have donated face masks and other personal protective equipment, or PPE, for the health workers.
"Know that you are truly providing life-saving equipment for our health care workers," Pritzker said during the Sunday news conference.
IVVC Director Joe Barbic said on Sunday evening, March 22, that he initially received an email that went to all vocational schools in the state from the Illinois State Board of Education asking for those schools to pass along any supplies – including N-95, earloop and surgical masks; isolation and non-descript gowns; nitrile, sterile and surgical gloves; face shields and goggles. From what he understood, Barbic said, state officials have an idea of where there's the highest need and lowest supply of materials in the state. He said he was told there was a high need in Will County and to bring the materials to the county's emergency management agency.
Barbic said he sent the call to action to instructors at the school via email at about 7 p.m. Friday, March 20. Since the instructors have been checking email frequently with e-learning going on, he said, he got replies back almost immediately and had instructors coming in first thing on Saturday, March 21 to sort through classroom supplies – which the school buys in bulk anyway to replenish those instructional materials – and to donate whatever materials they didn't need.
“I ended up with a whole truckload of stuff," Barbic said. "We ended up donating more than 8,500 masks and more than 10,000 gloves.”
Barbic said he wasn't able to catch the governor's address earlier on Sunday, but the text messages started rolling in after Pritzker mentioned the donations in his daily COVID-19 address.
“Which is really cool," Barbic said. "He [Gov. Pritzker] didn’t have to do it, but it was nice that he gave the recognition … that we did that.”
The vocational school serves students from Hinckley-Big Rock School District 429, Sandwich School District 430, Plano School District 88, Yorkville School District 115, Newark School District 18, Somonauk School District 432, Indian Creek School District 425, Earlville School District 9, Leland School District 1 and Serena School District 2.
Barbic said most people are searching for something to do to help the community during the COVID-19 outbreak. He said he believes the isolation aspect of what’s been going on lately has been challenging for people who want to help.
At the end of the day, Barbic said, school officials are interested in helping people.
“So if there’s an opportunity to do some good, people are really anxious to do it in, my opinion,” Barbic said.
To reach out to the state as a potential donor for PPE materials, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
• This story has been updated to include comments from IVVC Director Joe Barbic.