The St. Louis Chinese Education & Cultural Center, Chinese Service Center in St. Louis, and the Olive Market recently donated 1,500 face masks to the Ecumenical Leadership Council of Mo-St. Louis Chapter. The masks, which were made in China, will provide protection for those seeking to avoid contagion through the pandemic caused by the new coronavirus.
“The Ecumenical Leadership Council is honored to be chosen by representatives of the St. Louis Chinese community to receive badly needed face masks,” said Rev. Rodrick Burton, vice president of the council.
Burton said his group delivered the bulk of the masks to St. Louis Transitional Hope House because they realize that the unhoused population served by Hope House is the most vulnerable population in the area.
“We were surprised and pleased to be able to provide all residents, and staff, with an adequate supply of face masks,” said Bonnie Reece, executive director of St. Louis Transitional Hope House. “We are grateful to the Chinese community, the Olive Market, and the Ecumenical Leadership Council for selecting our agency to receive the masks.”
In addition to delivering masks to Hope House, the council passed out masks to individuals on the corner of Hodiamont and Dr. Martin Luther King.
“These masks will be helpful in preventing the spread of the virus as well as saving lives, many of which are black lives,” Burton said. “So, we are deeply grateful and thankful for this life-saving donation from representatives of the St. Louis Chinese community for making such a generous donation.”
The St. Louis Chinese Education & Cultural Center, also known as the St. Louis Modern Chinese School, has been donating supplies since the outbreak started in China last year.
Initially, the board of the St. Louis Modern Chinese School started buying ventilators to send to the hospitals in China and simultaneously built connections with medical supply companies. The board started to reach out to other Chinese communities in the U.S. to find and fund ventilators to donate to hospitals.
On March 20, the Chinese School decided to switch gears and started the campaign United, We Are Strong! St. Louis. The campaign raises money to buy protective masks. JiaMin Dierberg, a board member of the St. Louis Modern Chinese School, said they knew there would be a shortage of masks in the U.S. because of the shortage in China.
“We had an understanding that there was a huge shortage of masks and that was about to repeat in the U.S.,” said fellow board member Ruth Miller.
Because of the school’s connection with medical supply companies, they were able to receive small percentages of large orders of masks. Masks were first sent to Mercy Hospital for a quality check and then were later donated to hospitals with little buying power, nursing homes, and other healthcare facilities. The board also helped hospital systems including Mercy, St. Luke’s and BJC Healthcare connect to suppliers.
Masks became harder to acquire with increased passenger and commercial transportation regulations, especially in April.
“We started talking to hospitals and realized what might be good is sending food and love to the frontline workers,” said Dierberg. The board started sending meals to hospitals, police stations, firefighters, and volunteers working with the homeless.
At the start of May, which is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the board decided to launch a new campaign that partnered with more Asian organizations, not just Chinese ones. Thirteen restaurants have joined the campaign to donate meals; these meals are given at a discounted price.
On May 1, the first day of the campaign, 750 meals were donated. The campaign continues to donate more and more meals each day.
The St. Louis Asian American community started preparing for the virus months ago.
“Everybody has family and relatives in China,” Dierberg said. “Everybody realized how difficult this virus was to contain and what it takes – more so than other Americans.”
To help support the United, We Are Strong! St. Louis campaign, Miller advises people to reach out to their family members and friends, share links to their donation page. For more information, visit https://slmcs.org/donations.asp.
The St. Louis Chinese Education & Cultural Center and the Chinese Service Center in St. Louis are located at 6710 Clayton Rd. in Richmond Heights. St. Louis Transitional Hope House, now known as Hope House STL, is located at 1611 Hodiamont Ave. Visit www.hopehousestl.org.
Carrie Zhang is doing her May Project as a graduating senior at John Burroughs School with The St. Louis American.