Throughout New York City, a network of small DIY manufacturers have been stepping up to help solve the personal protective equipment (PPE) shortage. They are sewing masks, building protective gear, and fabricating medical equipment needed to fight the spread of Covid-19. 

Godwyn Morris’s businesses, Skill Mill NYC and Dazzling Discoveries, are just around the corner from The New Jewish Home. They are maker’s spaces equipped with a 3D printer and laser cutter. The spaces are usually filled with crafters and designers learning skills and using the high-end equipment, as well as children enjoying after-school programs and camps. But these days, Godwyn and her partner have shifted their emphasis and are using their equipment to help The New Jewish Home and other New York City-area nursing homes meet their need for face shields.

“Our fee-for-service business provides laser cutting and 3D printing services for people. Turns out those two pieces of equipment are perfect for producing face shields,” Godwyn said. She uses the laser cutter to cut the plastic for the shields and the 3D printer to produce the headbands. “We didn’t need to design them—there’s a library of free designs, you just download them and use them. We realized we had the right equipment, but we didn’t know who needed it.” She knew she didn’t have the capacity to produce the quantity a major hospital would require.

Then she read in an article in the West Side Rag, a local online publication, about The New Jewish Home’s need for PPE, including face shields. “We were thrilled to be able to help a neighbor,” she said. She also had a personal connection to the nursing home, where her father had spent the last six weeks of his life. “I was aware of what they do and how hard they work. The staff there did an amazing job.”

As Godwyn got to work, the project became a true neighborhood collaboration. She received some funding from a friend who owns a neighborhood pizzeria, Mama’s TOO! When he posted a video of the Skill Mill NYC face-shield operation on his Instagram, another neighbor, who runs a group called Pizza for Heroes, heard Godwyn saying that she needed elastic. He contacted her within ten minutes and offered her five 50-foot rolls he happened to have on hand. “All of these are community people helping neighbors,” Godwyn said proudly.

A few days later, Skill Mill had its first batch of face shields ready to deliver.

When they aren’t making face shields, Godwyn and her partner are running virtual afterschool classes, doing projects for some customers, and selling two products that Godwyn invented: Dazzlinks, an open-ended cardboard engineering kit, and Engineering with Paper, a series of educator toolkits that guide students through making models and prototypes. These are very popular right now with teachers looking for projects they can do with their students remotely.

But until the crisis ends and her maker spaces fill up with people again, Godwyn is happy to devote some of her time and equipment to making face shields for nursing homes. She accepts donations on the skillmillnyc.com website. She also received funding from Tikkun Olam Makers, an organization based in Israel that raises money and provides digital files for making prosthetics and other items for makers who can produce parts as needed for people with disabilities. 

“We’ve already made over 500 shields,” she said, which have been distributed to The New Jewish Home and three other New York City-area nursing homes. Tikkun Olam Makers helps her figure out who needs the help. 

“We’re trying to focus on where we can have an impact in places that have real need and aren’t getting them through the traditional channels. We’ll keep doing it as long as we have supplies and there’s a need.”