Despite the darkness brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, Beloit College community members have stepped forward in many ways to join the fight against the virus.
Sometimes it’s a matter of having a skill that fits the situation and the will to apply it.
Shelbi Wilkin, an adjunct professor of costume design and Costume Shop manager, has been dedicating her spare time to creating non-medical-grade face masks for people, including essential facilities staff working on campus. Wilkin was driven to do so knowing there was an early need, and she had the skill set to bring to the project.
Wilkin makes masks from three different patterns, each for a different purpose. The most complex can take up to 40 minutes to complete, and the simplest between 15 and 20 minutes. Each is made from two layers of cotton, with a space to fit a filter.
The project initially began with 13 masks, but has grown to around 70 as she has continued making them for family, friends, and those who request them.
While Wilkin says she was only able to dedicate a few nights a week to making masks while teaching remotely, she plans to devote time through the summer to continue producing more.
According to Lori Rhead, Beloit’s vice president for operations and a member of the college’s COVID-19 Task Force, the college’s essential workers now have access to personal protective equipment such as gloves, masks, and sanitizing wipes, in addition to Wilkin’s masks. Essential staff and students are required to maintain a social distance and have been asked to wear masks and gloves inside campus buildings. Staff also have access to coveralls, face shields, safety glasses, and N95 masks if they are needed.
In March, also at the height of the shortage of personal protective equipment, members of the college’s science division helped the broader Rock County community by donating on-hand PPE.
They inventoried the PPE the college had in storage for teaching classes, such as the Emerging Diseases course taught by Assistant Professor of Biology Rachel Bergstrom. Faculty and staff coordinated with Director of Security Bruce Heine to organize, package up, and donate the equipment to Rock County Emergency Management.
The donation included 72 boxes of gloves, three boxes of N95 masks, one box of surgical masks, and seven gowns.