Face masks, face shields and hand sanitizers were distributed for free this week to hundreds of local businesses and nonprofit organizations as part of a collaboration with business-centric organizations amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce handed out personal protective equipment to 145 businesses Wednesday at Direct Relief along Wallace Becknell Road in Santa Barbara. The organization provided 6,500 masks, 600 face shields and 1,600 bottles of sanitizer.
“I don’t think we had any idea how much this is needed,” said Kristen Miller, president and CEO of the Santa Barbara South Coast Chamber of Commerce. “Given the response, I think our next phone call needs to be back to the state agencies and ask for more.”
The supplies of PPE were available to California small businesses through the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services in collaboration with the Office of the Small Business Advocate, and in partnership with the Los Angeles Regional Small Business Development Center Network and the Economic Development Collaborative.
People lined up — with proper social distancing and wearing face masks — in the parking lot outside Direct Relief before the distribution started at noon.
The personal protective equipment was in high demand. Face masks and face shields were gone after about 15 minutes.
Cheri Diaz, executive director of the nonprofit Hope 4 Kids Early Learning Centers, attended the supply distribution to get gloves, masks and hand sanitizer.
Hope 4 Kids Early Learning Centers in Santa Barbara are faith-based, nature-centered quality programs for children ages birth through kindergarten, according to the organization.
“Gloves used to be $33 a case and now are about $110 a case,” Diaz said. “We use about five cases a month. … We are one of the few centers that stayed open this whole time, serving as many families as possible.”
The chamber scheduled a two-day distribution event this week, but plans were cut short since supplies were depleted on Wednesday.
However, some hand sanitizers were available, so the chamber took those products to Carpinteria businesses.
The chamber worked in collaboration with Direct Relief and Downtown Santa Barbara to distribute PPE to the business community in Goleta, Santa Barbara and Carpinteria. Businesses and organizations were urged to pick up a 30-day supply of free PPE at the distribution sites.
In Santa Barbara on Wednesday, a 30-day supply was provided for 2,588 employees from 221 businesses, according to Downtown Santa Barbara marketing manager Tim Persson.
A variety of local businesses and nonprofit organizations showed up to get the PPE supply, including assisted-living facilities, health services snd professional services, as well as personal care businesses, schools, retail, restaurants, bars, transportation and hotels.
“We at the Downtown Santa Barbara Organization were happy to be able to support the local business community with distributing this major donation at our office in collaboration with the new South Coast Chamber of Commerce,” Downtown Santa Barbara interim Executive Director Robin Elander said. “It was great to see and catch up with many local business owners and their staff.
“We are all working to get through this unique time together. I know we can come out of this stronger together.”
The Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce also will be providing free personal protective equipment to any small businesses in the Santa Maria Valley area that have experienced economic injury because of COVID-19.
Free hand sanitizer, face shields and face masks will be available for small businesses with 20 employees or fewere to pick up between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. next Monday through Wednesday at the Santa Maria Valley Chamber of Commerce office, 614 S. Broadway.
PPE will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, according to Molly Schiff, the chamber’s marketing and communications manager.
Masks and social distancing will be required for pickup, Schiff said.
She told Noozhawk that 24,000 face masks, 1,700 bottles of hand sanitizer and 600 face shields will be distributed.
“We know that times are tough for many of our local businesses right now, and we hope that being able to supply some of this necessary PPE can help alleviate at least a small cost,” Schiff said. “We know every bit can help.
“We also want to continue encouraging our businesses and community members to follow the health guidelines issued by our county and state health officials, and supplying some PPE to these businesses can help keep them operating safely.”
Santa Maria’s PPE supply distribution is a partnership between the Economic Development Collaborative’s Small Business Development Center and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.
“As the North County liaison for the SBDC, the Solvang Chamber helped coordinate the drop-off of supplies to northern Santa Barbara County,” Schiff said. “As a business-serving organization, the chamber felt like a natural fit to distribute these supplies.”
The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department website offers resources for area businesses, including details on how employers can help prevent the spread of COVID-19, economic recovery, assistance programs and more. Click here for more information.