Distribution of Personal Protective Equipment Begins in Austin, Texas

Southern  |  June 3, 2020
Brooks Eastman (right), a Westminster Retirement Community staff member who knows Tzu Chi Austin volunteers well, receives the 500 medical masks donated by Tzu Chi USA. Photo / Tsangbin Wen

Written by Fangwen Huang
Translated by Penny Liu
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska

People around the world are anxious and afraid due to the widespread impact of the novel coronavirus outbreak. However, in comparison to other U.S. cities, especially New York, the COVID-19 situation in Austin, Texas, has not been severe. Even so, many organizations still need masks to protect their staff, which they currently can’t procure through regular channels.

Tzu Chi USA’s Austin office recently received a shipment of masks from Tzu Chi’s global headquarters in Taiwan. After distributing part of the supply to its volunteers and members, as well as Tzu Chi Academy teachers, students, and parents, the branch office designated the remaining masks for distribution to organizations that need them in the Austin area. 

Volunteers contacted several organizations to assess needs and received requests for masks from the Westminster Retirement Community and the City of Austin government.

On the morning of April 21, volunteers Tsang-bin Wen, Fangwen Huang, and Tim Zhang made their way to the Westminster Retirement Community, bringing a donation of 500 masks. Brooks Eastman, a staff member they know well, greeted them when they arrived. 

Tzu Chi Austin volunteers have been visiting the retirement community twice a month for years, organizing live music performances, and leading fun activities and games like bingo to entertain and bring joy to the residents. Brooks thanked the volunteers for Tzu Chi’s continuing care and support, especially at this critical time when the community is in urgent need of medical masks.

Tzu Chi volunteers visit Westminster Retirement Community regularly, bringing care and cheer. They responded to the community’s needs during the pandemic as well, donating PPE. Photo / Tsangbin Wen

With regard to the City of Austin government, Tzu Chi volunteer Betty Pu was the contact, since she works for the Parks and Recreation Department. When Betty had learned that there was a need for masks, she immediately contacted the department’s Chief Administrative Officer, Suzanne Piper, to let her know that Tzu Chi had a supply for donation. 

When Suzanne arrived at Tzu Chi USA’s Austin branch office to pick up the supplies, she was thrilled to see volunteers ready to hand over a box of 500 medical masks. She told them that the City of Austin had placed an order for masks more than a month ago, but never received any. The city’s staff must interact with numerous city residents and the homeless every day, and urgently needs this personal protective equipment (PPE). 

Suzanne Piper (right), Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department, came to Tzu Chi USA’s Austin branch office to pick up 500 masks for city staff. Photo / Tsangbin Wen

Suzanne thanked Tzu Chi on behalf of the city’s staff members, knowing that for those working with the public during the pandemic, such PPE represents a measure of safety while facing a continual risk of infection by COVID-19. Before Suzanne left, Fangwen briefly introduced Tzu Chi’s history and missions and gave her copies of Tzu Chi Journals and a book of Master Cheng Yen’s Jing Si Aphorisms.

Volunteers share a bit about Tzu Chi’s history and missions with Suzanne Piper (right), from the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department, when she comes to collect a donation of PPE.

As Fangwen flipped through the book of aphorisms, she randomly paused on a page and read the saying there aloud: “Only those who respect themselves have the courage to humble themselves even more.” Suzanne grinned upon hearing it, “My husband should know this!”
Everyone laughed, then a volunteer shared her thoughts, saying that when we change ourselves first, we can influence others – wise counsel for the troubled times at hand.

As the pandemic holds us in its grasp, and so many are gripped with fear, reflecting on ways we can change to be of more significant support to others is worthwhile and may inspire as well. Just thinking about the wellbeing of those on the frontlines of COVID-19 isn’t enough – we must take action to help protect them instead. Please support Tzu Chi USA’s relief efforts that aim to flatten the curve and help those in need at this challenging moment in time.

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