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Birmingham businesses shift gears to give back

By: Tiffany Esshaki | Birmingham - Bloomfield Eagle | Published March 30, 2020

If the COVID-19 virus crisis has taught us anything about the Birmingham community, it's that you can keep folks inside, but you certainly can’t keep them down. 

From face masks to hand sanitizer, businesses are using their unique talents and resources to help protect medical workers and first responders from the highly contagious coronavirus disease. 

Nearly three years ago, Baldwin Public Library raised enough money to install 3-D printers in its new Idea Lab, with the intention of inspiring patrons of all ages to explore trends in science, technology, engineering and math.

Who would’ve thought that little space would come to play a big role in saving the community from a devastating pandemic? 

The library announced March 30 that the lab would be utilized to produce face shields to donate to nearby hospitals. The shields are composed of a 3-D printed head bracket, with a sheet of clear acetate attached to act as the shield. The lab’s 11 printers can produce shields at a rate of one every 3 minutes. 

“Everyone is proud and excited to support this initiative,” said Ryndee Carney, the president of the Friends of Baldwin Public Library, which funded the printers. “Especially in our 70th anniversary year.”

The model for the masks were downloaded from thingiverse.com, and once a shield is crafted, it’s sterilized in the Idea Lab’s vacuum desiccator and bagged for delivery. The first batch of 100 masks was donated to the Beaumont Health System March 27 with a generous donation of acetate sheets, supplied by Tommy Daguano, a regular user of the lab. They supplied masks for each member of the Birmingham Fire Department, too.

The Friends have since stepped up and donated more than $2,300 to purchase supplies for 2,000 face shields and to buy an additional 3-D printer for the Idea Lab.

“Thanks to the Friends’ donation, and funding from other sources as well, our group now has 11 3-D printers devoted to producing vital (personal protective equipment) PPE,” said Jeff Jimison, the supervisor of the Idea Lab, in a prepared statement. “This puts us on track to deliver 500 face shields to local hospitals this week. This is what we can accomplish when we work together.”

Not far away, the expert sewers at The Birmingham Tailor, on Maple Road, have been stitching together protective face masks to donate to medical personnel.  

“Joann (Fabrics) ran out of 1/4-inch elastic, so I had to improvise using Lululemon elastic from new hemming we had saved over the years,” wrote owner Ali Cheaib on The Birmingham Tailor’s Facebook page. “It worked perfectly… my mom always taught me not to throw anything away, it could be useful one day.”

Over in the Rail District, Griffin Claw Brewing Co. has been cooking up alcohol-based hand sanitizer in the house distillery. 

“From our distillation process we are able to make high-proof grain neutral spirits to dilute into FDA-standard sanitizing solution,” the taproom wrote online in mid-March.

Since then, the company has delivered donations of sanitizer to first responders around metro Detroit, with hundreds of free bottles going to Oakland County Sheriff’s deputies, Wayne State University police and local agencies. They’ve also been known to tuck a free bottle of sanitizer spray into carry-out orders for customers who pull up to get curbside food or growlers.

Do you know of someone doing good in your neighborhood during the pandemic? We want to hear about it. Post on the Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle’s pages on Facebook and Twitter and tell us who is bringing you hope during these tough times. 

Call Staff Writer Tiffany Esshaki at (586) 498-1095.