By Claire Aiello, Vice President, Marketing & Communications
Take 5 to Give $5 Campaign
In advance of Giving Tuesday, held on May 5, Toyota called for support of the Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville’s Emergency Relief Fund. WAAY-31 and the Chamber joined in to help, promoting this opportunity to support nonprofits helping with COVID-19 response. The goal was big – $500,000 – to support direct local aid for individuals and families, health and wellness needs, and food assistance. Companies and individuals stepped forward in a big way, smashing the goal and donating $669,784! The total has continued to rise and money is being distributed quickly – the Community Foundation’s Emergency Relief Grants Committee meets weekly to determine the current needs and to allocate available funding in an expeditious manner.
“At the Community Foundation, we never cease to be amazed by this incredibly generous community we all call home,” said Melissa Thompson, CEO/president. “In less than a month, together we have raised nearly $700,000 to support the nonprofit organizations who are on the front lines of the COVID crisis. In times of crisis, as always, we are indeed stronger together.”
Facebook donated $100,000 to the fund, but that’s only the start of their contributions to the Huntsville community. Most notable is $939,000 to Madison County Schools to support Wi-Fi expansion and 1:1 technology, $100,000 in grant funding for small-to-medium-sized businesses, $250,000 to Neighborhood Concepts for an additional SMB grant, and $25,000 each to the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, the Boys and Girls Club of North Alabama, and to PHOENIX to support cloth mask production for local healthcare workers. Facebook also donated personal protective equipment (PPE). The tech company is contributing to all communities across the country where it is building data centers including Huntsville.
But wait, there’s more. Companies and individuals gave of their time and talent in many different ways, especially when it came to supplying PPE.
In late March, Destin Sandlin of YouTube’s Smarter Every Day put out a call to the makers. “It’s time to do what Huntsville do,” Sandlin said, activating a local 3D-printing army throughout north Alabama. People printed face shields and dropped pieces off to be assembled by Sandlin and a group of volunteers. The operation grew by the day, then added injection molding at another site, and the team eventually produced 35,000 face shields to give to healthcare workers and first responders throughout the state. Sandlin’s team updated huntsvillefightingcovid.com to share lessons learned and best practices with makers throughout the country, encouraging others to activate and help in their communities.
Many people printed shields at home, and in companies across Huntsville/ Madison County, including Raytheon Technologies, Toyota, Teledyne Brown Engineering, EOS, and EngeniusMicro, just to name a few. Others helped with supplies such as boxes for transport, including General Electric and TWO MEN AND A TRUCK®. The production has now been turned over to a company.
In addition, companies donated masks, gowns, eyewear and other items they had in stock or purchased, including United Launch Alliance, U.S. Space & Rocket Center, Dynetics, TVA, Brown Precision, Matcor-Matsu, John Blue Company, and others. These supplies went to the hospitals, as well as to local doctor’s offices to help medical workers seeing COVID patients.
Some of our local brewers and distillers saw a niche they could fill. Yellowhammer Brewing produced more than 1,000 gallons of hand sanitizer for first responders, healthcare workers, food bank staff, and other front line workers. Companies stepped in to fund mass batches, including Lockheed Martin, SAIC, Torch Technologies, ERC, and others. Irons Distillery and Old Black Bear Brewing also made batches of sanitizer.
Companies large and small bought or delivered meals to healthcare workers, including AEgis Technologies, and Morris, King & Hodge, just to name two.
Fractal Brewing Project donated use of its event space to First Stop, which serves Huntsville’s homeless community. Media Fusion produced public service messages with HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology about the importance of social distancing, supplying these to television and radio stations. The company also partnered with Downtown Huntsville, Inc. on the #WEARHuntsville campaign, which encourages people to support their favorite local brands by wearing t-shirts, hats or purchasing locally.
Mission Multiplier gave away its cyber continuous monitoring tool, Mars Suite, for free, for three months. The company’s president and CEO, Jamie Miller, said his company doesn’t have a 3D printer or other capabilities to make PPE, so they wanted to offer another form of protection, because cyber criminals don’t take time off.
“We really want to help small businesses in this critical time,” he said. “We don’t want their information stolen, ransomware, their systems locked down, or their financial information stolen.”
Hundreds of sewers made masks to give to healthcare workers. Stacy Higgs, a Senior Contracts Principal at SAIC, is just one. As the stepmother of a neuro-ICU nurse, Higgs quickly became aware of the shortages in PPE, so she began stitching at the end of March. As crafting stores closed, Higgs sent a request to her company, and team members from all over the nation sent boxes of fabric, bias tape and elastic to help her supply. Higgs’ neighbors have also helped by sewing, cutting fabric, washing, ironing, and bagging the masks to get them ready for distribution.
Food banks and food pantries have been working non-stop to help families with the most basic needs. They have distributed thousands of food boxes with the help of volunteers and supportive companies such as Publix, IBERIABANK, and Landers McLarty Subaru. The Food Bank of North Alabama, Manna House, and about a dozen churches provided meals for Huntsville City School students at six locations. Woody Anderson Ford, RCP Companies, Beauregard’s, and many others have helped extensively with food assistance in the local community.
A Voice of Reason + Research
Early on as the community was learning about COVID-19, HudsonAlpha released a series of videos by Dr. Neil Lamb to help make sense of the science related to the virus. These came at a time when there was a lot of uncertainty, and these offered clear, factual information.
Eight companies on the HudsonAlpha campus are working to fight COVID-19. Among them, CFD Research is working on various aspects of COVID-19 respiratory viral infection, transmission, protection and treatment. Diatherix-Eurofins has worked with hospitals, physicians’ offices, nursing homes, and reference labs nationwide since March to provide speedy results. On April 29, the company received FDA emergency use authorization for its SARS-CoV-2 assay.
We must continue to stay vigilant to prevent the spread of the virus, and to lessen the burden on our healthcare system. The weeks and months to come are critical as researchers work to develop treatments, a vaccine and a cure. COVID-19 has had a sweeping impact on our community, with many trying to recover lost business.
Here at the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber, we are committed to helping our community stay strong. Members, we will continue to keep you informed with increased communications, and our team is here to serve. Please visit our website or call us if we can be of service: 256-535-2000.
This article appears in the June 2020 issue of Initiatives magazine, a publication of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber.