A Masked Army of Volunteers Combats COVID-19 by Donating PPE to Essential Workers

The family of YuZhen Lin ’21 and Edward Lin ’23 and their volunteers have stepped in to help replenish critical shortages.

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YuZhen Lin

Lin’s parents stand inside of their toy warehouse. “It hasn't been that hard balancing my volunteering efforts with school since my parents do most of the work. I usually go to the warehouse on weekends when I don't have school to help pack masks, since we also have been mailing them out to people,” said YuZhen Lin.

New York State went on PAUSE on March 22, 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Our community’s engaged families, like that of Bronx Science siblings YuZhen Lin ’21 and Edward Lin ’23, have been doing all that they can to make sure that healthcare workers and hospitals have the personal protective equipment supplies that they need. 

As soon as COVID-19 escalated in New York, essential services announced dire personal protective equipment (PPE) shortages. The Lin family stepped in to replenish them by tapping into their connections in the wholesale industry. 

In the past few weeks, they have donated hundreds of thousands of units of PPE to hospitals, post offices, and police stations. The family’s efforts have ensured the well-being of an enormous number of essential workers; their donations include nearly 100,000 N-95 masks, 100,800 face masks, and 39,800 thick surgical masks. 

The Lins’ parents, who are usually toy wholesalers, have networked with their business contacts to find warehouses stocking PPE. YuZhen Lin said, “[through word of mouth and social media,] the connection expands, helping them source the PPE. They’ve been doing this kind of business for a while now, so they know where to get masks, protective gowns, and everything else.” 

It all started in January 2020, when the COVID-19 outbreak began in China and sinophobia began to surge. The Lin family thought it was unjust that Chinese people were being racially targeted and blamed for this virus. They decided to proactively combat these racial stereotypes with kindness and positivity. “We wanted to bring together a group to donate masks to show that we’re not bad people. We shouldn’t be blamed for this virus just because we are Chinese,” explained Lin. 

On March 15, 2020, her mother started a group on the Chinese social media platform WeChat called the “Love Given” group. She started donating PPE to hospitals three days later. The group expanded rapidly, splitting into two chats to accommodate the near-thousand members due to the 500-user group limit on WeChat. Then, three more groups joined in: the American Chinese Empowerment Group, the Parent-Child Relationship Association, and the Chinese American Association.

The Lin family used these social media groups to spread awareness about their efforts. At first, they used some of their own money to buy PPE, and Lin’s father delivered masks to hospitals alone. But as the groups grew in size and gained traction, the donations started to pour in. In addition to the family’s friends and customers, who spread the word to their friends and relatives, strangers and Bronx Science parents started to contribute. “Many, many people wanted to help out by donating and even volunteering,” said YuZhen Lin. Her mother organized the logistics, and they delivered boxes of masks and other PPE to hospitals, police stations, and the fire department. “We also helped pack since they come in such huge boxes!” she added.

YuZhen Lin
YuZhen Lin ’21, her cousin, and Edward Lin ’23 stand in front of boxes of sealed masks that they packed. “My mom made stickers to spread awareness for our group. I stick them onto every single box of masks,” said YuZhen Lin.
YuZhen Lin
A volunteer poses with New York City’s valiant nurses and doctors and boxes of masks donated by the Love Given group. 

 In April 2020, the state government was able to find masks and support hospitals. As a result, the family and its masked army of volunteers shifted their focus to post offices and nursing homes. Volunteers do not come any more because of stricter distancing rules now in effect, so the parents take care of the enterprise. They pack and donate the other items, like protective gowns, that are still coming in. Healthcare workers and police officers are always grateful for the Lin family, often coming to pick up any PPE that they still need.

Unlike most, Lin’s parents have been busier since quarantine started, so she cooks dinner every night with her cousin. “That way, my mom doesn’t have to worry about it, and my parents can just start eating when they come home every day at around eight,” she said.

In addition to supporting our community’s essential workers and her parents, YuZhen Lin has committed to helping her peers and their families. “They need to leave their houses to replenish supplies, but they can’t because they don’t have any protection,” she said. It’s hard to find masks now, and they’re expensive when available. After brainstorming ways to solve the problem, she decided to post about her family’s enterprise in the Bronx Science Facebook group. She sells and mails the PPE items at wholesale prices, which is far more affordable than retail. Anyone who needs masks, gloves, or hand sanitizer can send her a message. 

Her altruism shows through her efforts to extend help to members of the Bronx Science community. “Our family barely makes any money with this. We just want to help people,” said Lin. “I like volunteering because I get to help people out.”

The interview with YuZhen Lin ’21 has been edited for clarity with her approval.

“It’s rewarding to know that I can actually make a difference in the community and other people’s lives,” said YuZhen Lin ’21.

 

 
YuZhen Lin
On Easter, Lin’s family friends dressed up as bunnies and gave away masks. They are not as tasty as chocolate eggs, but certainly a more practical Easter gift.
YuZhen Lin
Lin’s father, far right, poses with two volunteers, boxes of PPE they donated, and an appreciative police officer at an NYPD station.
YuZhen Lin
Pictured is the logo of the coalition started by Yuzhen and Edward Lin’s mother, Yanfang Chen. The Chinese reads “Love Given,” which is the name of Chen’s original WeChat group.
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