BOONE — Watauga area health agencies have asked for help with supplies, donations and volunteers as the COVID-19 virus continues to spread in North Carolina, and community members are answering the call.

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System, which includes Watauga Medical Center in Boone and Cannon Memorial Hospital in Linville, said on April 3 it is seeking donations of alcohol-based hand sanitizer from businesses or individuals with extra hand sanitizer on hand. ARHS stated it would accept hand sanitizer of any size or container, including travel size bottles and spray pens. Donations must be alcohol-based, not homemade, and contain at least 60 percent alcohol. Contact Brian Whitfield at bwhitfield@apprhs.org or (828) 262-9105 with questions.

“Our normal suppliers are not able to keep up with the demand and have canceled the orders we placed previously,” said Rob Hudspeth, ARHS senior vice president for advancement.

Skip Watts, a representative with the NC 529 College Savings Plan, saw the Watauga Democrat article about the ARHS request and on April 6 dropped off 1,000 bottles of travel-sized hand sanitizer with a security officer at the ARHS offices.

“This is an uncertain time for all families,” Watts said in a statement to the Watauga Democrat. “NC 529 is very happy to be doing our part to keep North Carolina families healthy and safe from COVID-19.”

With protective masks and face shields in short supply due to the threat of COVID-19, Chris Kearley, an applied engineering instructor at Wilkes Community College’s Ashe Campus, is using modern technology to make 3D-printed face shields to help local health care providers stay protected.

As of April 6, the WCC Ashe Campus has produced a total of 370 face shields, according to Kearley.

Kearley said as of April 7 they have sent 50 to Ashe Memorial Hospital, 100 to Watauga Medical Center, 15 to Alleghany Memorial Hospital and 15 to Alleghany Center. There have also been 44 face shields produced and used by those delivering meals to Ashe County Schools students on the school buses as part of the Child Nutrition Program.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, AppHealthCare and local agencies are urging people to cooperate with Gov. Roy Cooper’s executive order to stay home except for essential trips. The agencies are also urging the community to practice social distancing and good hygiene — like hand-washing and covering a cough or sneeze.

“This situation is affecting each person in our community in different ways, and we are all experiencing disruptions to our normal schedule,” stated AppHealthCare. “There are ways you can help your fellow community members from afar and while practicing social distancing.”

Donation Needs

  • Appalachian Regional Healthcare System
    • ARHS is requesting the following supplies: medical grade surgical and procedure masks; N95 respirator masks; face shields; gloves; gowns and hand sanitizer.
    • Items can be dropped off at the front entrance of Charles A. Cannon Jr. Memorial Hospital in Linville or the security checkpoint at Watauga Medical Center in Boone. Money can be directly donated to ARHS to support the ongoing efforts of Appalachian Regional Healthcare System to respond to COVID-19, or to directly support patients in need, at apprhs.org/donate-covid19.
  • American Red Cross
    • The Red Cross is hosting a blood drive at the Paul H. Broyhill Wellness Center from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on April 16. To make an appointment, visit www.redcrossblood.org and enter in the sponsor code — Watauga Medical Center. People can also call 1-800-RED-CROSS.
  • High Country United Way
    • Donations can be made to the High Country United Way’s local relief fund that will go toward providing community members with critical information and services like food, financial assistance and more. To donate, visit www.highcountryunitedway.org/covid-19fund.
  • Hunger and Health Coalition
    • Donate to Hunger and Health Coalition’s fundraiser to provide emergency food and life-sustaining medication to their clients and community members in need. To donate, visit tinyurl.com/smx962r.
  • Rumple Presbyterian Church
    • Rumple is requesting donations of boxes approximately 17 inches by 11 inches, or printer paper box size. The boxes are needed to pack food for families. Box donations can be dropped off at Rumple Presbyterian Church at 1218 Main St., Blowing Rock.
  • theHeart
    • Donations of cards and decorations can be made to theHeart to be be delivered to area assisted care facilities and nursing homes. Items can be dropped off from 1 to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays at theHeart Office at 191 Howard St., Boone. For more information on response efforts, visit www.theheart.us/coronavirus-response.
  • Deerfield Ridge Assisted Living
    • Community members can sponsor a resident at Deerfield and send a resident letters, notes and pictures to support residents during visitor restrictions. Contact Candice Myers at (828) 264-0336 to sign up.
  • Foley Center at Chestnut Ridge
    • The Foley Center is in need of wireless bluetooth headsets for residents to participate in activities from the doorway of their rooms. These items can be dropped off at The Foley Center. Any donations and supplies and food for staff (such as coffee and donuts) are also welcome.
  • The Watauga Children’s Council
    • The Children’s Council is accepting donations of diapers in sizes 4, 5 and 6, pull-ups, baby wipes and formula — particularly formula for special dietary needs. Donations of products can be dropped off at the Health and Hunger Coalition at 141 Health Center Drive, Unit C, Boone. For more information, call (828) 262-1628. Financial donations can be made online www.thechildrenscouncil.org or by check mailed to the Children’s Council of Watauga County at 225 Birch St., Suite 3 Boone, NC 28607.
  • Local Businesses
    • Consider sponsoring breakfast, lunch or dinner for frontline staff during this time. Community members can purchase gift cards or take-out meals from local businesses.
  • Mountaineer Emergency Fund
    • Appalachian State University has launched a fund to assist students through unforeseen financial emergencies or urgent situations that would prevent them from continuing their education at Appalachian. The fund provides short-term grants to students to help cover expenses such as child care, food, prescriptions, housing, e-books, online learning materials and other needs. Learn more, apply for assistance or donate by visiting today.appstate.edu/2020/03/27/mountaineer-emergency-fund.

    There are a few ways that some can volunteer to help during the pandemic. Health care workers who want to volunteer for COVID-19 response can sign up through NC TERMS at terms.ncem.org/TRS/. For help with registering, call (828) 264-4995 and dial 2222 or contact by email at preparedness@apphealth.com and provide a name, expertise/credentials and a call back number.

    For other ways to volunteer, contact AppHealthCare by emailing preparedness@apphealth.com to inquire about opportunities. AppHealthCare is available and on-call 24/7 to respond to public health emergencies. To reach the agency, call (828) 264-4995 anytime and follow the prompts. For more information, visit www.AppHealthCare.com or follow the agency on Facebook or Twitter.

    For more information on COVID-19 (novel coronavirus), visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at cdc.gov/coronavirus. North Carolina resources can be found on the Division of Public Health website at ncdhhs.gov/coronavirus.

    A COVID-19 toll free helpline has been set up to answer general, non-emergent questions at 1-866-462-3821. To submit questions online, go to www.ncpoisoncontrol.org and select “chat.”

    Bailey Little contributed reporting to this article.

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