It all started with a small group of people that saw a problem and then went about trying to solve it.
“The community, the senior centers, the essential businesses they are out there every day, no protection,” said Xiaohua (Tony) Guan, one of the founding members of Sunnyvale’s #StrongerTogether. “That’s why we started our program, we want to protect our community. If we can reduce one person from being affected, that actually saves a lot of hospital resources.”
Guan heard from friends at hospitals early into the stay at home order, who said they were suffering from a shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). He reached out to Sunnyvale Mayor Larry Klein and confirmed the need was there. Guan wanted to help, so he and a group of 18 friends pooled their resources and purchased 8,000 masks from China.
“It all happened very quickly, just in the last two weeks,” said Guan.
Until that time, he had never imported anything from overseas. He knew that he could lose his money, but he felt like this was worth the risk.
“After all this work, [if] we can only prevent one person from potential infection, that will feel worth it,” said Guan.
Guan and his friends came up with the name #StrongerTogether and then started distributing the masks. One of the first drop-offs, Sunnyvale’s Department of Public Safety (DPS). From there, it snowballed.
In just a few weeks, #StrongerTogether has distributed almost 16,000 masks to eight hospitals, local agencies, local stores and senior citizens. It’s held pickup events at local grocery stores and volunteers are dropping off masks to the most at-risk portions of the community.
“I have another group helping me to distribute these masks. These senior members, they don’t have to come to Safeway stores, they can just get it right at their doors on their doormat,” said Guan.
And he’s also getting donations from others in the community.
“Our community is really awesome. People reach out to me, ‘Hey Tony, I just ordered 200 N95, can you help me to find a hospital that needs that donated?’,” said Guan. “It’s never one person. It’s always a lot of people together making this happen. I’m really, really proud of our community.”
Guan is well aware that he’s not the only one helping out and he does what he can to match PPE with the agencies that need it. After dropping off the masks at Sunnyvale DPS, he says Chief Phan Ngo mentioned that first responders in Vallejo needed masks too. The Chief volunteered to drive the masks up, but instead Guan did some research and found an agency closer to Vallejo that was willing and able to help.
“You don’t have to do everything yourself,” said Guan. “You just have to know that someone out there may be able to help you and I think they’re willing to help you. That really shows the power of our community. I like that.”
#StrongerTogether is willing to deliver masks to senior citizens in Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Cupertino, Los Altos, Saratoga and San Jose. To find out more, including how to donate, search “Project #StrongerTogether” on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.