Eastern Michigan University engages in numerous efforts to help community during COVID-19 crisis

Initiatives by students, faculty, staff and alumni include medical assistance, making and delivering supplies, cash donations and even help with the laundry

Faculty member Dave Pawlowski uses 3D printers and laser cutters to make face shields or parts for face shields.
Faculty member Dave Pawlowski, pictured here, is part of a comprehensive PPE project.

YPSILANTI – Eastern Michigan University has mobilized its resources and deep commitment to community engagement during the worldwide COVID-19 health crisis, resulting in a wide variety of efforts to assist people and organizations in need.

The initiatives throughout this spring echo the University’s recent designation by the Carnegie Foundation as an institution with exceptional community engagement.

“I continue to be amazed by our University colleagues and the great support we provide to the community,” said EMU President James Smith. “Such an effort is imbedded in our mission, but to see our stated values play out in real daily actions is gratifying, and sends a message about Eastern’s character and purpose.”

Recent COVID-19 related efforts at EMU include:

  • Engage@EMU is overseeing a variety of campus efforts to make personal protective equipment (PPE). The project was launched in mid-March 2020 with a request from administrators of St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ann Arbor for fabric masks to help protect employees working on non-COVID-19 units. That initial request led to the development of a more comprehensive PPE project that’s utilizing the key assets of EMU (students, faculty, equipment) in collaboration with community organizations and businesses. A variety of those efforts and others are noted below.
EMU branded intubation boxes
Plastic intubation boxes built by EMU faculty members were donated to hospitals and health care workers. You can see images of the devices and learn more by viewing the Everyday Eagle Heroes photo gallery.
  • EMU faculty members in the College of Engineering and Technology have built plastic intubation boxes to be donated to hospitals/health care workers. You can see images of the devices in the Everyday Eagle Heroes photo gallery.
  • Students, faculty and staff from the Eastern Michigan University Theatre Department have been hard at work turning materials from the theatre’s costume shop into cloth masks to donate to hospitals and those in need.
  • Julie Becker, an associate professor of apparel, textiles and merchandising, is helping Applied Textiles, a Grand Rapids producer of textile products, in its initiative to create 20 million masks. Becker was asked by the company to develop the patterns for the masks in addition to creating models and cutting files for the company’s industrial fabric cutter.
  • Eastern is assisting IHA and St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Hospital physicians, nurses and health professionals by providing temporary living arrangements in the Village Apartments. This helps to address a major issue for St. Joe’s and IHA -- helping provide a nearby apartment living space for their professionals who are working long hours in the face of this crisis and need a place to self-isolate.
  • More than 20 officers at EMU have signed up to make Meals on Wheels deliveries during the coronavirus pandemic.  Lt. Diana Young says the organization reached out to them and officers have delivered hundreds of meals since then.
  • Health clinics across the state and country have been opening drive-through coronavirus testing stations for people who think they might be infected, and nursing students, faculty and staff at EMU are helping in any way they can, which includes taking phone calls, creating screening charts, managing testing tents and even swabbing those who are sick. More than 240 students, faculty and alumni have volunteered to help.
colorful masks
Students, faculty and staff from the Eastern Michigan University Theatre Department have been making masks to donate to hospitals and those in need.
  • Eastern has donated over 100,000 items of equipment, including gloves, standard masks, N95 masks, gowns, transparency sheets to make face shields, bleach, wipes, googles among other supplies to hospitals struggling to treat patients during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The EMU Athletics Department is making its industrial size washers and dryers available to St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Hospital to help with the increase in laundry due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Kennedy Dixon, an Eastern Michigan University student in her junior year as a public health major in the EMU Honors program, has been selected by the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services to conduct contact tracing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  •  Eastern Michigan University and the Ypsilanti Community Schools are collaborating on an initiative to increase Internet access at no cost to hundreds of families in the school district. The project, called YPSI LIVE, will provide Comcast Internet service for 400 families for six months. It is supported by the GameAbove EMU alumni group and the Washtenaw County’s Office of Community and Economic Development.
  • The Engage@EMU PPE project is producing 2,500 masks for the City of Ypsilanti to be distributed to those in need of them. Of the 2,500 masks, 625 will be youth sized, while the remaining 1,875 will be standard adult sized. Those interested in requesting face masks can visit the City of Ypsilanti’s COVID-19 informational webpage for instructions on how to submit a request.
  • The Bright Futures program at Eastern is combining academic activities, nutrition instruction and local fresh produce in a special project to benefit families in the Ypsilanti Community Schools district. The project consists of a weekly package of academic materials and local fresh produce organized through the Farm at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor Hospital. Packages are delivered directly to families from multiple Ypsilanti Community Schools Bright Futures sites. The partnership includes Bright Futures, Growing Hope, Ypsilanti Community Schools and the extension office at Michigan State University.
  • EMU community members are sending Thank You Notes to the doctors and nurses at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital in Ypsilanti. Complete this form to write a note to send.
  • Through EMU’s VISION Volunteer Center, and in tandem with the University of Michigan Ginsberg Center and the United Way of Washtenaw County, established a platform for volunteer opportunities, the EMU Volunteer Connection website.
  • EMU professors Cathy Fleischer and Ann Blakeslee have worked to extend the YpsiWrites resources to the community via an online initiative since people are unable to physically utilize those services at Ypsilanti district libraries. They are being rolled out on the YpsiWrites website and through the YpsiWrites Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.
  • The GameAbove alumni group has also contributed strongly to Eastern’s COVID-19 community relief efforts. This includes funding help in making PPE, growing the EMU Student Emergency Fund, and financial contributions to Hope Clinic, Ypsilanti Community Schools and Food Gatherers.

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves nearly 18,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

May 27, 2020

Written by:
Geoff Larcom

Media Contact:
Geoff Larcom