New York's 'Patron Saint of PPE' goes into debt to donate

Published: May. 21, 2020 at 2:44 PM EDT
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A woman in New York is going to extraordinary lengths to make sure health care workers have the protective equipment they need while caring for the critically ill during the coronavirus pandemic. Rhonda Shearer has even earned the nickname Patron Saint of PPE.

Several times a week, Shearer heads to hospitals with a team of volunteers to hand out the much-needed protective gear, known as PPE, to workers on the front lines.

One health care worker said, "I definitely came right across the street and stood in this long line on my lunch break. I have not had lunch, but we're very grateful for any PPE."

Another added, "It's nice. It's like excitement anytime someone's generous enough to donate anything."

When Shearer saw some health care workers struggling with shortages and sacrificing their safety, she decided to make a sacrifice of her own. She borrowed $650,000 to buy critical supplies.

"When you see them all in a line and they're risking their lives for us, it's inspiring. And they're so modest about it," she said. "They're doing their job and they're marching into hospital doors where you really don't know, and they don't know, what the end result could be."

Shearer knows the stakes of not having PPE firsthand. Her work in donating began after 9/11. Countless first responders, including her partner, were facing a disaster zone without proper protection. Years later, he passed away from cancer linked to Ground Zero.

Shearer's organization, "Cut Red Tape 4 Heroes," has helped an estimated 25,000 health care workers so far.

Shearer's goal is to pay back her loans and keep going. People have already donated more than $400,000 to Shearer to help her do that.