Richmond parishioners craft protective equipment for area healthcare workers fighting coronavirus
April 28, 2020
Beckie Gautreau sews a face mask in an effort to provide personal protective equipment for healthcare workers in the Galveston-Houston region alongside her husband Josh who has been producing face shields. Many medical communities across the nation have been taking donations of medical-grade and non-medical grade PPE to support their supplies while fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
Josh Gautreau uses a 3-D printer to produce frames using a special material that will be used for face shields. He has produced more than 500 face shields, which are comprised of a special 3-D printed frame and transparency sheets. (Photos courtesy of Beckie and Josh Gautreau)
RICHMOND — Alarmed by the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) available to frontline healthcare workers fighting to slow the coronavirus pandemic in the Galveston-Houston region, husband-and-wife duo Josh and Beckie Gautreau decided to take things into their own hands — and sewing and 3-D printing machines.
The couple, who attend Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Richmond with their three daughters, have been crafting homemade PPE to support city-wide efforts to provide healthcare workers with additional supply. Beckie, focused on cloth face masks and scrub caps, has made more than 75 items with her sewing machine, while Josh and his 3-D printer have produced more than 500 face shields.
Since March, their work joins dozens of other groups around the region all working to produce at least 4,000 face shields, masks and ear guards by the end of April. Every night, volunteers coordinate logistics for deliveries, requests and materials, according to Josh.
Dr. Jamie Hernandez, Josh’s sister who practices OB/GYN at CHI St. Luke’s Hospital and Caritas Women’s Care in Sugar Land, asked her brother Josh if he could help make PPE at home using a 3-D printer after reading about efforts in other places. The next day, Josh went to a nearby electronics store, bought a 3-D printer and started printing masks soon after.
Beckie said their faith prompted their efforts.
“Our Catholic faith is constantly calling us out of ourselves,” she said. “All the vocations and all the Sacraments reinforce this need to serve our community. During this current crisis, I needed to find a way to serve.”
And while social distancing prevented them from helping out in other ways, their DIY efforts were a “great solution” to serving the greater community.
“Hearing that there were serious concerns about a lack of PPE for the medical community was alarming,” Josh said. “Knowing that we had a possible way to help provided considerable motivation for us to get involved in some way.”
Josh’s face shields are comprised of a transparency sheet, like those used on school projectors, secured to a special 3-D printed frame. Each frame takes about 50 minutes to make.
Sewing came easy for Beckie. With a musical theater background, she knew how to sew costumes and set dressings for her productions. Josh, who works in oil and gas, was a quick learner with his 3-D printer, empowered by his business, finance and law experience.
Initially, they raised funds online to pay for their supplies, more than doubling their original $500 goal. Soon, when they joined their efforts with others in the region, materials started flowing from donors to spur additional production.
The family, like millions around the world, continued to adjust to life’s new challenges in the pandemic. While their children were already homeschooled for a year prior to the COVID-19 crisis, the kids miss seeing their friends who also remain in their own homes.
However, the closure of many art and craft stores due to nationwide stay-at-home orders that shuttered businesses, Beckie found it challenging to keep a consistent supply of materials.
“Elastic, fabric and ribbons are sold out nearly everywhere,” she said. “I’m ready to make more masks, but I need to find fabric!”
Even in the massive coordination involved with producing so many pieces, Josh remained thankful for the united front to tackle the pandemic.
“Thankfully, everyone has rallied around the singular goal of providing PPE to those in need, so the group is able to stay focused amidst the chaos,” he said.
To donate materials or join the effort to make homemade PPE, visit the website online at www.houstonfightingcovid.com.