GREAT BARRINGTON — Charles Burger, director of the Southern Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee, was struggling with how he could help local towns obtain the personal protective equipment (PPE) they need to protect poll workers from coronavirus.
Many of the 12 towns in the region will hold town elections soon. Several town administrators asked Burger, who is also the Great Barrington fire chief, for help in getting PPE. But that was problematic because the committee is charged with helping emergency responders in the region.
Then, unexpectedly, Scott Rote, president of Wheeler & Taylor Insurance, called him. Rote wanted to donate 2,000 surgical masks the insurance agency had purchased and then took it a step further. Rote had procured foam, elastic strapping material, and 200 sheets of polycarbonate plastic, and the staff of Wheeler & Taylor went to work constructing face shields as PPE.
“It was quite a pleasant surprise when Scott called,” Burger said. “The donation came at a perfect time. It would have been a very difficult need to fill otherwise.”
The face shields will be used by poll workers. Facemasks will be provided to poll workers and to ensure that all voters have proper masks on. Burger will allocate the PPE to the 12 towns in Southern Berkshire County — from West Stockbridge and Stockbridge down to the Connecticut border.
Egremont and Sheffield have elections coming up soon, and other towns will soon follow.
“It’s crucial to protect poll workers, who are often retirees volunteering their time, and we’re glad to help,” Rote said. “And I can’t say enough about our wonderful employees who gave their time to put together the face shields with their own hands using the materials we provided.”
Burger said that the situation caused by the pandemic does have a silver lining. “We’re seeing great community support from businesses and organizations that helps us get through this. The best in people is coming out.”
After the face shields are used for elections, they will be cleaned and repurposed, he added.
Wheeler & Taylor will unveil further COVID-19 charitable initiatives in the coming weeks.