Western Carolina University’s Division of Educational Outreach recently donated 500 bottles of WCU-branded hand sanitizer to Buncombe County’s Irene Wortham Center in response to an appeal for paper masks, cleaning supplies and other items to help keep the center’s staff and clients safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bottles of hand sanitizer were originally destined for distribution to participants in Educational Outreach conferences, workshops and other events this spring that have been canceled or postponed in response to the health crisis, said Jill Thompson, associate director of professional development.
“Boxes of hand sanitizer were just sitting in our promo room not being used. We didn’t imagine hand sanitizer was going to become such a hot commodity, and the boxes of sanitizer were just collecting dust,” Thompson said. “After reading a newsletter from the Irene Wortham Center with a call out for PPE supplies including sanitizer, we decided to donate 500 bottles. Our programs are community-focused, so we’ve been looking for opportunities to give back during this crisis. This was a small way to make a huge impact.”
As a nonprofit organization that strives to help individuals from low-income families and/or with developmental disabilities live happier, healthier and fuller lives, the Irene Wortham Center welcomed the contribution from WCU, said Sydney Reichert, director of development and marketing for the South Asheville-based agency.
“As a nonprofit providing frontline health care services, it’s been challenging finding adequate supplies of personal protective equipment items, especially hand sanitizer, masks and gloves,” Reichert said. “Since many of the consumers in our residential homes have compromised immune systems as a result of developmental disabilities, having necessary health and safety protective equipment is incredibly important.”
In addition to use by residential clients and staff members in the organization’s three homes, the hand sanitizer also is being utilized in Irene Wortham’s Early Learning Center, which is providing emergency child care for children from birth though age 12 whose parents are working in essential jobs during the pandemic.
“We have been fortunate to get fabric masks and some plastic face covers donated, but hand sanitizer is hard to come by and so important,” Reichert said. “We realize there are so many organizations in need of PPE supplies right now, and we cannot thank WCU enough for recognizing and acting on the need for PPE supplies at Irene Wortham Center.”
The Division of Educational Outreach also donated another 150 bottles of hand sanitizer to be included in the Catamounts Care bags being organized through a Center for Community Engagement and Service Learning and School of Nursing program partnership to support seniors in Asheville who are living in state subsidized housing.