Bishop Brady student Angelica Whitney makes PPE for frontline workers

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When Bishop Brady High School was moved away due to the COVID pandemic in March 2020, student Angelica Whitney knew she wanted to do something to help. Whitney, a sophomore at the time, was a member of the Bishop Brady robotics club, but since extracurricular activities were canceled, she had time off.

Epsom resident Whitney got the idea to use her robotics team’s skills and equipment to make and donate PPE after hearing about the ‘One Million PPE Challenge’ at the scale, launched by a FIRST robotics team from Michigan.

“When I saw this challenge, I was like, ‘This is what I want to do. This is how I can help,'” Whitney said. I have access to 3D printers and a lot of other supplies like that, so I said, let’s start with face masks that I would sew, and then face shields as well.”

As the pandemic progressed, Whitney continued to sew face masks with the help of a family friend. But it has also started making other items like “ear-saving” devices that secure masks behind the head, nose clips to keep glasses from fogging up, and touchless door openers.

To date, Whitney has donated more than 8,870 pieces of PPE to local hospitals, schools, nursing homes, fire and police departments. She says she used Google Maps to locate nearby facilities, then emailed them, asking if they needed donations.

“Some of the places I’ve connected with, so I just come back to them and say, ‘Hey, do you need anything? Haven’t heard from me in a month or two, just want to check,” Whitney explained. “Concord Hospital, Catholic Medical Center, places like that, I made sure to reach out a few times.”

Funding for the project was initially a challenge, as fabric and plastic filaments for 3D printing quickly piled up. So Whitney began writing grants and doing media interviews to publicize the project in hopes of receiving donations. It worked. Whitney was one of three students nationwide to receive US Cellular’s Future of Good award in March 2021, which came with $10,000. She also received the Spirit of Community Award from Prudential (now called Emerging Visionaries) in February 2021, which came with $2,500.

“I think what I’ve learned is that I can really impact other people,” Whitney said. “I know that in the past a lot of my volunteering was with animals, because that’s my main passion. But I discovered that I could help people in other ways, even though I was just a teenager.

During the pandemic, PPE needs have fluctuated. As PPE supply has caught up with demand in recent months, Whitney’s PPE production has slowed, but its donations have not. Instead, she turned to buying and donating snacks like granola bars, trail mixes, crackers and coffee pods for workers in hospitals, schools and nursing homes. It always manufactures and gives PPE on request.

The PPE project is not Whitney’s first foray into community service. For years she volunteered at the Pope Memorial SPCA in Concord and the Back in the Saddle Equine Therapy Center in Hopkinton. She is also a member of the National Honor Society and volunteers her time to teach math lessons to other students. She is also being followed at Bedford Veterinary Medical Center.

After high school, Whitney plans to apply to colleges with animal science programs, with the eventual goal of attending veterinary school and becoming a veterinarian. But she plans to continue doing community service on the side.

“I just found out that I really love helping people, which is what I love doing and what makes me happy,” Whitney said. “So I tried to do that as much as possible.”

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