By Brittany Polito
12:43PM / Wednesday, September 16, 2020
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Lions Club International gave Berkshire Health Systems a boost in its COVID-19 efforts Tuesday with a $10,000 donation.
The presentation was made by Art McConnell, former governor and club member of the Lions Club District 33Y in Dalton to Jack Henault, director of supply chain and clinical engineering at Berkshire Medical Center.
The funds will go to Berkshire Medical Center's COVID-19 Relief Fund for the purchase of personal protective equipment.
With this donation BMC was able to purchase about 7,800 N95 masks, which are medical grade masks used by health-care workers and first-responders to protect both them and the patient from airborne particles that spread the illness.
"Prior to COVID, we were using around 60 of these masks a month" Henault says. "During our peak time during COVID, we were going through 630 a day."
He said it was important to have PPE on hand for BMC staff and that inflation because of the novel coronavirus has made it harder to keep supplied. Before the pandemic, N95 masks could be purchased for about 70 cents per mask, but after the increased demand at the peak of the pandemic the price increased to about $6.40 per mask.
BMC is now purchasing about 5,000 to 10,000 N95 masks a month just to keep up with demand. Regular masks, gloves, gowns, and face shields also skyrocketed in demand, leaving the nonprofit hospital in a position where it needs help from the community to be able to purchase these necessary supplies.
Henault says it is the community that has helped BMC get through the COVID 19 pandemic.
Joining them outside the hospital's Warriner Memorial Building on North Street were Jennifer Vrabel, director of development at BMC and Michael Leary, director of media relations.
The Lions Clubs International includes about 1.4 million members across about 220 countries and has been donating to disaster relief funds since 1968. Since then, it has given away more than $1 billion. The volunteer organization donates 100 percent of its earnings directly to the community or to relief funds. COVID-19 has sparked the need for more aid and the Lions have so far raised $5.1 million in relief funds worldwide.
McConnell was governor for the Lions Club District 33Y last year and has held various positions in it for 41 years. When he was offered a chance to help with COVID relief, he jumped on the case and worked with LCI to be able to secure the $10,000 donation for BMC.
He explains that he saw a bill for $84,000 that BMC paid for personal protective equipment and was amazed.
"We had to make sure that the money was going strictly for COVID-19," he said. "It's a drop in the bucket, I'm sure, for that kind of payment that they had to pay."
Each Lions Club governor is allowed $10,000 in donations for a disaster. In recent years, the club donated $10,000 for relief after the tornado in Springfield and an additional $10,000 for the tornado in Conway.
Locally, the Lions Club district is made up of about 38 clubs between Hampden, Hampshire, Franklin, and Berkshire Counties.
"Where ever there is a disaster, the first one there is a Lions member," McConnell said. "It's unfortunate that the hospitals are suffering, and so are the businesses, and the people that have lost jobs because of COVID but if we can help in this small way, we are happy to do it."
Both Berkshire Medical Center and Lions Clubs International will continue to accept donations. More information about BMC's COVID-19 Relief Fund can be found here. www.berkshirehealthsystems.org/COVID19ReliefFund
Donate to Lions Clubs International here. https://www.lionsclubs.org/en