When Derek Chan and John Lee helped five families cofound the Greater Roslyn Association For Chinese Enrichment (GRACE) last year, the initial goal was to help immigrant families assimilate into the community.
Then the coronavirus pandemic struck. The charitable businessmen quickly rallied their new nonprofit’s membership to raise funds for personal protective equipment (PPE) that the group donated to local hospitals, group homes, and schools. In the process, they’re helping combat the anti-Chinese sentiment that has surfaced in the wake of the COVID-19’s emergence.
“The byproduct of what we’re doing will be to help people understand we’re really fighting this fire together,” says Lee, treasurer of GRACE and a vice president at Melville-based dental supply manufacturer Henry Schein, Inc. “There’s really no nationality when it comes to a virus or pandemic … We’re all in this together.”
When the healthcare system began being overwhelmed by coronavirus patients in March, GRACE initially set out to raise $500 to buy surgical masks to donate to medics in need of supplies. Following an outpouring of support from Chinese families in Roslyn, the nonprofit raised more than $13,000 as of press time.
“It turned out finding donations was the easiest part,” says Chan, president of GRACE as well as president of Greater Hudson Financial, a financial planning company. “Now finding PPEs was the hardest part.”
After reaching out to their contacts and GRACE’s members doing the same, the group secured 1,500 N95 masts, 1,500 surgical masks, plus hundreds of gowns, goggles, and latex gloves — all of which have proven especially difficult to find amid increased demand during the crisis.
The group then donated the PPE to NYU Winthrop Hospital, Glen Cove Hospital, and other hospitals as well as to local nursing homes and rehabilitation centers that run group homes, which have also been struggling to secure PPE. They also combined resources with eight other LI Chinese associations to together donate 6,000 N95 masks and 27,500 surgical masks to additional hospitals.
Among the group homes were those run by Life’s WORC, a Garden City-based nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people with intellectual disabilities and autism. Lee serves on the board of the nonprofit, which was founded by Victoria Schneps-Yunis, owner of Schneps Media, the parent company of the Long Island Press.
In hindsight, battling the stigma of coronavirus was never their intention, but Lee and Chan welcome any peripheral benefits GRACE’s good deeds may bring.
“It doesn’t matter in my mind if you’re Chinese, or Italian, or American,” Chan says, “In times of crisis, you see the good in people.”
For more information, visit roslyngrace.org
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