Employees’ PPE assistance is multi-dimensional
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
The contributions of Public Safety and Event Services to Grand Canyon University have taken on new meaning, with an emphasis on safety and service.
Members of both departments jumped in when GCU put out a call to action for volunteers to help with its production of personal protective equipment (PPE). Just like that, the effort to fight COVID-19 went from a five-day operation to seven days a week, round the clock.
“I’m really thankful they stepped in and supported us because they enabled us to produce so much more,” said Jude Fernando, Engineering Lab Supervisor for the College of Science, Engineering and Technology.
This much more: The extra effort helped GCU approach its goals of 20,000 cloth face masks and 15,800 plastic face shields. The University recently gave 1,000 cloth masks to the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, 250 masks to the Arizona State Veteran Home, 340 shields to the city of Phoenix and 1,000 shields to Phoenix Indian Medical Center.
It’s the continuation of a three-month effort, first detailed in this GCU Today story, designed to provide PPEs for the campus as well as the community. And not only has GCU stepped up the production, it has kept improving the quality of its PPE offerings, as reflected in the evolution of the face mask design initiated in Canyon Promotions.
In early May, Public Safety started resetting the 3D printers that produce the face shields. Its personnel needed just one tutorial from Fernando to get going.
“There are people on the night shift I’ve only seen once, he said. “They came to a training that we did at 5 in the morning, and after that I haven’t seen them. But I’ve seen the work that they do because I see all the items that got printed overnight.”
Everyone in Public Safety contributes, no matter their squad assignment or position. Its leaders, including Assistant Police Chief Chuck Miiller, also learned how to make shields.
“It’s a two-hour cycle,” Miiller said. “They go in, fire up the machine, make sure the filament is in there, make sure it warms up, hit the start button twice, and then it takes two hours to make that part.
“They go back on campus patrol, come back two hours later, remove that piece and start up all the machines again.”
And Public Safety’s contributions didn’t stop there. It also sent dispatchers to help the College of Fine Arts and Production sew face masks.
Similarly, Event Services employees have diversified their volunteerism dividends. Alexis Bolze, Molly Buckler, Noelle Baddeley, Kennedy Miranda and Greg Jenkins from the Events team and Sabrina Taube, Mandi Curtis and Jennifer Irish from the Scheduling team helped with cutting or sewing face masks, and Taylor Sprague and Ali Davis raised their hands to reset the 3D printers.
Davis welcomed the opportunity to come to campus after working from home since this spring.
“Being able to go to campus and actually get ready for work for the day was like, ‘Wow! This is something different!’” she said. “You get stuck in that routine of like, ‘Well, OK, I’m at home.’ It was nice to be able go onto campus and have a purpose to the day.”
Sewing and pleating masks was a natural for Bolze, who was taught to sew by her grandmother at a young age. She has been so inspired by sitting in the room where Nola Yergen and her staff create costumes for GCU theatre productions, she felt inspired to start sewing again.
“It was cool because I got to go into Nola’s shop,” Bolze said. “It’s just cool to see what they have. You’re never really exposed to that. They have some of the costumes from shows on mannequins, and they have small clothing racks.
“It’s just neat seeing their quality of work and how talented they are. Some of the dresses are super intricate and have all this beading and tassels and pleating. It’s nice to support other departments, too, like, ‘OK, how can we all help out?’”
That yearning to be back on campus was reflected by what they’re saying about coming together for the common good.
“It was kind of cool, especially being in this crazy pandemic, there’s only so much you can do,” Davis said. “It’s kind of cool knowing that you are a part of something that’s helping the community and it gives you that purpose, which is what we do at GCU.”
Working on campus regularly, with virtually all employees working at home, has been a lonely experience for Fernando.
“There’s a lot of negative energy just in general, so this is something for people to be part of that’s positive,” he said. “There’s literally nothing negative that you’re dealing with here – it’s all positive. You know people are actually going to use this and you are actually helping out other people.”
And Miiller likes the way Public Safety’s giving spirit was reflected in contributions from all over.
“Everybody has thrown their hat in the ring,” he said. “It’s just a positive story on how we’re trying to take on more responsibility to support the PPE production. It’s huge.”
For all of these employees, the satisfaction of helping the community was coupled with the joy of taking on a new challenge.
“I was intimidated by it, but if they were willing to take the volunteers, it probably was something I could learn and now it’s something I can say I’ve done,” Davis said.
It also didn’t hurt to get out of the house for a change. Bolze explained why in one simple sentence: “I’m probably the one millennial who doesn’t have Netflix.”
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or [email protected].