It all started when Kori Johnston, a local ICU nurse, posted on Instagram a plea to her followers to “STAY HOME.”
“Today I feel safe and protected with appropriate personal protective equipment,” wrote Kori Johnston, who is a certified critical care registered nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange, CA. She continued, “but tomorrow…the next day… and the day after that is what’s terrifying. The uncertainty of not knowing if we will run out of supplies is frightening.”
Johnston’s childhood friend, Alexandra Garcia, a 31-year-old social entrepreneur in Laguna Beach, CA, saw her post and instantly knew that that she had to do more than just “stay home”.
“I was terrified for her,” says Alexandra, who at that moment had been self-quarantined for over a week. “I had been keeping up with the news and educating myself on what was going on in China and Italy, and I was fearful we’d be next.”
At a time where we need healthcare workers the most, it has become clear that US-based healthcare workers are soon to face a similar fate to those in Italy and China fighting the war against Covid-19. Right now, doctors and nurses, such as Johnston, do not have the proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to treat infected patients, risking their own health and lives due to the national shortage of supplies. In desperation for a solution, the Centers for Disease and Control approved new guidelines last week allowing physicians to wrap bandanas over their mouths as masks and wear trash bags as medical gowns.
That’s when Garcia finally understood the gravity of the situation in the United States.
“There was no way I could just sit in my home and do nothing,” says Garcia. “I have way too much to contribute and I have to at least try to help with this cause.” So, she direct messaged Johnston on Instagram and offered to build a website to help crowdsource masks and gloves to donate to her hospital.
“My first reaction was shocked,” says Johnston, who hadn’t seen or spoken to Alex since they were both in elementary school. “I was shocked that someone was that serious about helping out. I had gotten messages from people saying ‘let me know if you need anything’, but Alex was the first person to come forward with an idea of how to help and recommend something that I didn’t even know.”
Having started up a few small ventures of her own with her 74-year-old web developer grandfather (whose name is Luis Guerra, but she calls Abuelito), Garcia inherently knew what to do. She kicked her entrepreneurial spirit into high gear, and quickly drew up a plan. She then turned to her family for help.
“I thought , ‘Okay, I’ll have Abuelito build the website while I start strategizing,’” says Garcia, who had been coordinating the website with Guerra all the way in Baja California, Mexico, where he lives. “After jotting down in my notes all the tasks I had to do to get this started, it was just instinct to call my sister and see if she wanted to help, too.”
Alexandra’s sister is Gina-Maria Garcia, a marketing executive for two luxury car dealerships in Orange County, CA, and she, too, went to elementary school with Johnston. Just like her sister, Gina-Maria had a few entrepreneurial ventures of her own, so when Alexandra asked her if she’d want to help out with Fronltine Donations, Gina-Maria knew that they would be a perfect team.
“My sister has pitched to me a lots of ideas before, but this one was a no-brainer,” says Gina-Maria, who is self-quarantined in Orange, CA. “Alex has a skillset that I don’t have, and I have a skillset she doesn’t have, so I got excited because I really could see the magic we could make together. Her passion to help Kori was so contagious, I quickly became just as eager to get the project started.”
Alexandra then started a group chat with Gina-Maria and Johnston, and that’s when Frontline Donations was born.
In the two day-window between launching and when this website was created, Alexandra, Kori and Gina-Maria have received donations of over 1,000 N95 masks. They’ve also partnered with a local clothing company based in Costa-Mesa, CA to manufacture handmade mask covers to donate to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Orange. To date, Frontline Donations has donated over 100 handmade masks to that hospital. Both the N95 and the manufactured masks were donated to Frontline Donations from the three founders’ very own personal friend groups.
“It’s incredibly moving to see so how many of my friends, Gina’s friends and Kori’s friends, are reaching out on Instagram to help us succeed – both donating and volunteering,” says Alexandra. “The funny part about it all is that some of these friends we haven’t seen in over 10 years.”
Gina-Maria chimes in, “-yeah, starting this drive has re-united us all, but not really because we’re still on couches… in our own homes,” she laughs. Since creating Frontline Donations, Alexandra, Gina-Maria and Kori have yet to see each other face-to-face.
Frontline Donations’ primary goal is to provide PPE to the ill-equipped healthcare workers fighting the war against Covid-19 in the United States, but more importantly, Alexandra, Gina-Maria and Kori want to inspire communities to come together in the face of adversity, and truly become one.
“This virus isn’t uniquely an American issue or a certain county’s issue – it’s a global one,” says Johnston. “This virus affects your neighbor, your mom, your co-worker and even your long-lost friend. Now is the time to help each other because by doing so, we’re only helping ourselves.”
If you would like to donate or be a part of Frontline Donations, donate here on GoFundMe or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook and Instagram (@frontlinedonations) to keep up to date on our donations, who we’re helping and why.