ST. JOHNSBURY — St. Johnsbury Academy has been receiving deliveries of surgical masks, gowns, gloves, and more from China, and on Thursday morning it went to the front line workers at Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital.
The dozens of boxes of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) was donated by families of students — past and present — whose children attended St. Johnsbury Academy, said Jack Cummings, associate headmaster at the Academy.
A list of the supplies that have been pouring into the Academy’s Admissions office have been logged by staff member Robin Legendre, who works with Cummings. It shows thousands upon thousands of items including the coveted and in-short-supply N-95 masks, coveralls, goggles, surgical and isolation masks, gowns, and more.
NVRH President Shawn Tester, who was invited to go and see the supplies on Wednesday afternoon, said he was overwhelmed by the donations.
“This is an incredible source of supplies for us, this is amazing,” he said.
“Hopefully it keeps people safe,” Cummings said.
Some of the donated supplies were also given to CALEX Ambulance.
“We greatly appreciate the Academy’s alumni families and the PPE donations,” Michael Wright, CEO of CALEX, said on Thursday. “This allowed us to maintain adequate levels of PPE for our staff, especially N95 masks which have been very difficult to secure during this time.”
Many families whose students have attended school at the Academy have fond relationships with the school. They are grateful to the community for hosting their children, and wished to respond to the need for PPE for health care workers in St. Johnsbury, said Cummings.
The school’s boarding program has more students from China (70) than any other country, said Cummings.
There remain about 30 students on campus, most from China, who have been unable to return home due to travel restrictions amid the pandemic.
The students are being taken care of on campus, where they are restricted for social distancing, and are learning remotely like all students, said Cummings.
He said he expected the number on campus to continue to decline as travel arrangements can be made to safely see students home to their families.
“The kids are safe and healthy,” he said.
Cummings said the value of the PPE is hard to estimate, but easily is worth over $100,000. He said shipping alone is in excess of $60,000, much of which the school covered.
The effort was coordinated by an educational company which has long done business with the Academy, and whose son graduated last year, according to Cummings.
“Maggie Wu and her husband Johnson Chen are the principals at USAEDU, based in Shanghai,” said Cummings on Thursday. “We have worked closely together for nearly 20 years. Their son Alex graduated from St. Johnsbury Academy last year. They have sent hundreds of students to us over the years. They are close partners and good friends.”
Cummings said, “They reached out to our families to help provide needed PPE and then coordinated the entire operation, including arranging shipping.”
Wu’s brother, Tchi Jui Wu’s son Jack is a student at the Academy.
The family are helping with the cost of shipping the PPE to St. Johnsbury, as well.
Wu, in an email to the newspaper about the donations, said a day after putting the request out to families with connections to the Academy in China, she had more than 10,000 masks donated, describing the response as “joyful.”
In a telephone interview on Thursday, Wu said the families she works with were immediately wanting to help out with the hospital need for equipment in St. Johnsbury. She said a list of what was needed was supplied to her and she asked for those things to be bought and shipped.
When she spoke to Cummings, Wu said she promised him she would “do my best” to get as much PPE donated as possible through her parents’ group chat.
“They take care of the kids very well,” said Wu of the Academy. She said she and the parents she works with understand what an integral role the school plays in the community, and wanted to support that at this difficult health crisis moment.
“In addition, to Maggie’s effort, our families in Xiamen, led by Henry Ng ’06 and his parents, also sent PPE,” said Cummings.
A spread sheet of the donations shows that many more families also contributed significant donations to the effort.
“We have been overwhelmed by this outpouring of generosity from these families whose donations run into the thousands of pieces of PPE,” Cummings said.