Philadelphians answer city’s call for donation of hand sanitizers, masks for hospitals

Andy Siegel with a box N95 filtration masks.
Photo credit Cherri Gregg/KYW Newsradio
PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Amid the coronavirus pandemic, some Philadelphians — including the owner of a hardware store and a mom — have stepped out to answer the city's call for donations of medical supplies for healthcare workers and families. 

"I'm really just concerned about people who need this stuff and don't have access to it,” said Andy Siegel, who owns Ace Hardware at 20th Street and Fairmount Avenue. 

It took weeks to get his shipment of hand sanitizer and N95 filtration masks, so when he finally got them this week, he donated 1,000 bottles and 200 masks to Philadelphia's Department of Health to go to the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"They have a lot of positive cases and these people have to go back home, where they are not positive yet and don't necessarily have the resources to go anywhere else,” Siegel said. 

Siegel will sell several thousand bottles of hand sanitizer to the public at his store for $2.60 a bottle, giving priority to the most vulnerable. 

For every extra dollar donated, Siegel said he'll donate another bottle to the Health Department. 

"They can donate as many as they want and they'll be limited on the amount they can buy so they can spread it out. But hopefully, they can do more so we can do more like this,” Siegel added. 

So far, they've received $1,000 and will donate 1,000 more bottles.

"We'll donate what we can and also take donations where we can and make sure they get to the right place,” he said. 

Rasheena Phinisee, whose daughter underwent two liver transplants, is very familiar with the need for medical masks. So she decided to make some for those on the frontline of the coronavirus crisis, and it's all funded by donations.

"Living in quarantine is something pretty common for us,” explained Phinisee, founder of Assiah's Liver Fund. 

The nonprofit — which was founded after her daughter Assiah went into liver failure — raises awareness about organ donation and educates young transplant recipients about the process. 

When the pandemic hit, Phinisee said she immediately thought about how she could help.

She launched the Assiah Liver Fund's COVID-19 initiative. Thanks to Cash App donations, she began making cotton masks with elastic bands with a pocket that's perfect for placing an N95 filter for added protection.

"I actually had a couple of contributions and donations made through Cash App, so I was able to put in an order for bulk materials,” she explained. 

So far she's made 60 masks, giving them to healthcare workers, home aides and caregivers, security guards, shelter workers, and others who are vulnerable.

"I've had people reach out to me and say ‘hey, you know my mother's elderly and she still has to go out and I need a mask for my mom,' " she added. 

Family physician Dr. Jen Caudle cautions using handmade masks without N95 filters that are fit tested as they are not 100 percent effective. But, she said, “the homemade masks could be better than nothing.”

So, Phinisee is working to make a hundred more and hopes others with sewing skills jump on board. For more information, visit the fund's Facebook page.