In March of this year, Alex White read an article about people who were 3D printing face shields to meet PPE needs created by COVID-19. He mentioned the article to his wife, Clenise. Alex, who is mostly retired, and Clenise, who has her own tax business, knew they were going to be at home for a while, so they liked the idea of an interesting project that could also help those in need. The couple decided to purchase a 3D printer and start printing face shields.
“I didn’t know anything about 3D printing,” Clenise says, though she knew it could be used in medical manufacturing. Their first printer produced a few face shields and then began having problems, so the Whites purchased a second, and then a third, until they finally got it right after learning from Youtube videos, taking the printers apart, and making adjustments. In the end, Alex and Clenise had four printers, and they got them all in working order.
At the beginning of April, they were ready to go into production. They tried three different NIH-approved shield models before settling on a favorite. The 3D printer prints the visor—each takes about three hours to print—and then Clenise assembles the shield.
Soon, Clenise and Alex had shields ready to donate. But they faced an unexpected problem: finding where to donate them. “We know there’s lots of need,” Alex says, “but it’s difficult to know how to find the people who need them.” In mid-May, they made a providential connection through their church, St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Richmond, where Nancy Springman serves as parish nurse.
When you’re a nurse, Nancy says, you end up serving in many kinds of unexpected ways. Now she finds herself in another role she never anticipated: “Alex and Clenise are manufacturing,” she says. “I’m marketing and distribution.” Nancy was a godsend to Alex and Clenise, figuring out how to get their excellent shields to those who need them most. “To date,” she says, consulting her spreadsheet, “we have given away 2,503 shields.” And the shields have gone far and wide. While most have gone to various sites in Virginia—mostly healthcare facilities, but also daycares, schools, barbershops, religious institutions, and social service agencies—some have traveled as far as New Jersey, Florida, and California.
With Nancy keeping the orders coming in, Alex and Clenise run the printers around the clock. “When we started, we could make maybe seven or eight in a ten-hour day,” Clenise recalls. “Now I’ve got a really good system” and can produce as many as 35 in a day.
As a nurse, Nancy knows how important it is that healthcare providers are protected—and she knows that protecting healthcare providers helps to protect everyone else too. And it’s important to Nancy and the Whites that the shields especially go to serve those in need. Nancy has offered shields to every free and charitable clinic in Virginia. At CrossOver, we have received 100 of the shields, and they are a staff favorite.
Clenise and Alex decided together to take a break in August. They turned the machines off. But after just one day, they turned them back on. “You think that you’ve got things that are difficult,” Clenise reflects, “but there are people out there who are struggling to breathe.” They are spurred on by the magnitude of the need. “We’re all in this together,” Clenise says. Alex adds, “We’re ready to make more if anybody needs them.”
If you know an organization serving the community that could benefit from face shields, please email email@example.com.
“I hear other people are bored, but I never have a spare minute,” Clenise says of her months in quarantine. “[Making shields has] been a really great experience for us,” she says. “I feel a little selfish in a way, because I get such a good feeling about it.”