August 13, 2020TILTON ¬– When the Tilton Senior Center took delivery of their new bus last month, the COVID-19 pandemic presented them with some unexpected health protocols they were not prepared for. A 15-year-old from Epsom, however, came to their rescue last week with PPE equipment for the volunteer drivers and the center's Executive Committee couldn't have been more pleased.
"This means we can finally start picking people up to bring them to doctor's appointments, shopping and even a few programs here at the center that are starting up again," said Committee Chair Pat Consentino.
Angelica Whitney is a junior at Bishop Brady High School where she is a member of their FIRST Tech Challenge Robotics team. While the program at BBHS is only a few years old, the team is already making themselves known in the robotics world with awards and recognitions, and when FTC challenged teams across the country to help provide a million PPE devices for first responders and others who need protection from the virus, Whitney decided to take on that challenge.
With some help from the team captain, her brother Nick, along with her parents, she began running two 3-D printers at her home in April to create face shields and ear savers. Her printers form layers of plastic according to her programming instructions, producing adjustable plastic headbands to which she then adds custom cut sheets of clear plastic to create a shield.
"I buy plastic through Amazon then round off the corners and use a three-hole punch to fit it to the headbands," Whitney explained.
The printers have also allowed her to create adjustable ear savers- pliable plastic bands that elastic from face coverings can be attached to behind the head rather than tugging on earlobes. The adjustment tabs also allow a better fit for those who find that masks don't always fit their face well, such as children and more petite adults.
In two-and-a-half hours, Whitney said she can produce three face shield bands on one printer. For the smaller ear bands, it only takes 30 minutes to create two of those on her second printer, enabling her to make up to 40 of those in a day.
On top of that and all her schoolwork, she also added masks as part of her PPE packages for people and facilities that needed them.
"I was sewing my own masks to begin with but then the grandmother of a family friend volunteered to make them for me," she said. "That was a huge help. She can make a lot more in one day than I had time for."
To date Whitney has made over 5,000 face shields. Her donations have benefited several health agencies, first responders, veterinary clinics, schools and nonprofit organizations throughout the state, including Tilton Senior Center now.
"The biggest amount so far has gone to New Hampshire Hospital, Concord Hospital and Catholic Medical Center," she said, "but I make them for whoever needs them."
A grant helped provide her with start-up money for the project but generous donations from the places and groups she has benefited have helped keep her busy protecting even more people this summer.
Consentino, who is also a member of Tilton's Board of Selectmen, said it was all by chance that she became connected to Whitney. While on the phone with Police Chief Robert Cormier one night, she mentioned that the Senior Center was unable to transport people in wheel chairs due to current government regulations for social distancing.
"We have to lock their chairs in so that means we're within six-feet of our clients and the CDC says we have to have masks, face shields and gloves when we do that," she explained.
His wife Jennifer overheard their conversation and quickly jumped in with a solution.
"I told him 'Hold the phone! I know who to call,'" she said.
As a previous resident of the Epsom community, the Whitney family members are longtime friends of Jennifer's family so she knew all about Angelica's project. It only took one phone call for her to get the 20 face shields the Tilton Senior Center needed to run their bus operations.
Cormier was also on hand last Thursday when Angelica and her mother Kavita delivered the shields and some ear savers to the center.
"I love the fact that all of these are adjustable and you can even replace the plastic shields if they get damaged. That's what's so neat about what she's doing- all the components can be customized and replaced if needed," she said.
Consentino and others on the Executive Committee were also impressed by how lightweight and unobtrusive the shields were.
"I'm just really glad Jennifer was able to connect us with Angelica so we can get our bus up and running. There's so much need for it in this area," said Consentino. Turning to the high school student, she added, "Your very generous donation will help us keep our momentum going here at the Tilton Senior Center. Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
Emily Laplante, vice chair of the Executive Committee, told Whitney that the organization will also be expressing their gratitude to her through a portion of the donations received at their weekly Music Nights on Wednesdays.
Whitney said any other nonprofit groups, long-term care or medical facilities, first responders, veterans organizations or others in need of masks and face shields can contact her with their request at email@example.com and she will do all she can to help meet those needs.