Mid-State funnels resources to support local coronavirus relief

Metro Wire Staff

Mid-State Technical College campuses may be temporarily closed to slow the spread of COVID-19, but that hasn’t stopped faculty and staff from answering the call for much-needed supplies and materials to combat the virus locally.

The college quickly marshaled its resources to donate health and hygiene supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) to local hospitals and health care agencies, loan out 3-D printers to CREATE Portage County to support local production of additional PPE and even reconfigure a student club fund drive to benefit local health care workers.

“We see this as an opportunity to share what we have to support our community partners in this emergency response initiative,” said Colleen Kane, Mid-State’s dean of the School of Health and School of Protective Services.

The effort to pool resources and get them where needed to combat the pandemic locally found its start in conversations between deans in the Wisconsin Technical College System going back to March 16, according to Kane.

“We knew all along we would be donating whatever we could to help the health care systems in our communities, so it was just a matter of figuring out what we had that would be welcomed by those local health care agencies and hospitals and getting it boxed up and out the door,” she said.

By March 26, dozens of boxes of donations from Mid-State were being delivered to organizations expressing a need, including health departments in Wood and Adams counties as well as Marshfield Hospital and Clinic Health System, Aspirus Riverview Hospital, Ascension St. Michael’s Hospital and Gundersen Moundview Hospital and Clinics.

According to Kane, Mid-State is donating its entire stock of approved PPE to help alleviate anticipated shortages, including over 300 boxes of gloves along with a variety of other items, including N95 respirators, surgical masks, isolation gowns and eye protection as well as sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer. Additional donations of protective aprons and vinyl gloves from the college’s cosmetology program rounded out the supply-based donations. The college also owns three patient ventilators, which are ready to go out should the need arise.

Another opportunity to support the community’s relief efforts arose on March 24, when the college learned that CREATE was asking for 3-D printers and supplies to help grow a COVID-19 PPE printing farm at its IDEA Center in downtown Stevens Point.

That same day, the college delivered four of its 3-D printers and supplies to the location. The printers have been up and running since early in the week, producing reusable face masks and face shields for donation to local hospitals and clinics.

According to Ryan Kawski, dean of the School of Advanced Manufacturing & Engineering and School of Transportation, Agriculture, Natural Resources, & Construction, Mid-State normally uses the printers in its mobile manufacturing lab, the MIKE, and metal science lab to showcase additive manufacturing.

“In a time when our 3D printers were sitting idle, we were happy to loan them to the IDEA Center to support such an important project,” Kawski said.

A third opportunity to support the community during this difficult time arose when Mid-State’s Medical Assistant Club fundraiser was interrupted by the campus closures, leaving nine boxes of Seroogy’s chocolate stranded at the Stevens Point Campus.

Rather than leave the club with the unsold chocolate, Medical Assistant Instructor Jennifer Klicka had the idea to donate the bars to local clinics and hospital staff to keep them energized. Employees were then invited by email to purchase the bars via IOU, with the option to donate their chocolate to local health care workers. In a little more than a day, three-quarters of the 432 bars were being prepared for donation.

While Mid-State resumes most classes on Monday, March 30, via virtual offerings, the college remains poised as a partner to assist in community needs as they arise.