LI teen founds fundraising group to provide protective gear to frontline workers

Shortly after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus crisis a pandemic, Sabrina Guo received a call from Nassau Legis. Joshua Lafazan on social media to write thank you letters to health workers.

The 14-year-old wrote one. But that didn’t seem to be enough.

Days later, in March, the teenager created a nonprofit called Long Island Laboring Against COVID-19 to raise funds to purchase personal protective equipment that she saw doctors and nurses have. so desperately needed.

“By reading the stories of our frontline workers suffering from severe [PPE] shortages, I really understood the gravity and gravity of this whole situation with COVID, ”said the sophomore from Syosset High School who is now 15 years old. “It really hit me. “

Since March, the campaign has raised over $ 100,000 and donated 170,000 pieces of PPE to 40 Long Island facilities, including hospitals, nursing homes and veterans groups, Guo said.

The organization, or LILAC, grew to have 50 members, mostly high school students from Long Island.

A few days after Christmas, LILAC made its most recent donation – 20,000 masks, coveralls, gowns and hand sanitizers – to Mount Sinai South Nassau Hospital in Oceanside. The group also donated 120 lunches.

Ken Long, vice president of administration at the hospital, said the hospital has several months of PPE and will add the donation to its supply.

“It shows the connection to the community,” Long said. “It keeps morale high when people feel the community recognizes and notices what they are doing.”

Joseph Moores, administrator of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 347 in Glen Cove, said he and other members were astonished when LILAC reached out to donate a few thousand masks and a few hundred hand sanitizers around of Memorial Day. The supply was then shared with about a half-dozen other VFW and American Legion stations.

“I couldn’t believe it. There was this pandemic, and they really escalated,” the 72-year-old Vietnamese veteran said. “We were very impressed and grateful.”

Beyond supplies, LILAC members made and donated 170 pieces of art to thank frontline workers and show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. The BLM Art Series has been a separate LILAC initiative since its founding last March.

“It’s an amazing feeling to see other people happy over a job you’ve worked on,” said Marla Hakim, a 15-year-old who has made more than 20 pieces. “Sometimes they cry or give you a big smile. It’s just amazing.”

Yeonwoo Lee, who contributed two dozen works of art, made a colorful sketch which she named “Together. “

It shows a patient celebrating her birthday with two family members through a glass window, a portrayal all too familiar to families who have been forced to endure separation and celebrate milestones in a virus-adjusted world.

“Obviously this pandemic has given us all challenges, big and small, but we have to find ways to work together again so that we can be together again,” the 15-year-old said. years old, originally from Plainview.

Sabrina Guo, whose father, Spencer, emigrated from China to the United States at the age of 13, said she started LILAC in part to “alleviate this unwarranted prejudice against Asian Americans,” referring to the backlash that Asians in the United States have faced because of the pandemic that originated in China.

Spencer Guo, one of the parents who drives teens to donation sites and helps with logistics, said her daughter’s campaign was also aimed at making the voice of the Asian community heard.

“As Asian Americans, we need to do more to show that Asian Americans [aren’t] just about school and… studying for exams, ”said Spencer Guo, 48. “We care about our community. We care about other people of color. We care [the Black Lives Matter movement]. And we care about how Asian Americans are viewed. “

The disparities exposed in the aftermath of the pandemic on minorities and those struggling to make ends meet are also not lost on the Guo family.

Sabrina Guo, who has donated $ 40,000 from her college fund saved by her parents and $ 1,050 from her personal savings, said LILAC will contribute 30,000 PPE, which will be donated by lawmakers in Nassau, to groups who serve veterans, the elderly, the homeless and at-risk youth. .

“It’s… coming from a privileged position to live and go to school comfortably on Long Island,” said Sabrina Guo, who lives in Oyster Bay. “I felt the need to bring these resources together to help the less fortunate.

Local politicians, who attended the donation ceremonies and praised LILAC, praised the group’s efforts.

Lafazan (I-Woodbury), 26, called Guo a “perfect example” of people coming together to make a difference.

And she’s not alone, the lawmaker said, noting the efforts of volunteers who have collected food, shopped for the elderly, organized PPE and blood drives.

“During a very dark and turbulent time, we have seen citizens take heroic action,” Lafazan said in an interview last month. “They were the light of 2020.”

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