For some, the COVID-19 pandemic is in the rearview mirror. Not for Unity Bands, which was founded in late 2020 by Arnold resident John Schirrippa to aid health care workers.
Schirrippa launched the nonprofit three days before COVID vaccines were offered to frontline workers in the medical field. While based out of his home office in Arnold, Schirrippa — along with 10 family members and friends — participated in a virtual launch.
To date, Unity Bands has raised $15,000 through monetary donations and the sale of its flagship product, a customized wristband that demonstrates a symbol of unity, as well as branded merchandise like T-shirts, mugs and water bottles.
“As an all-volunteer nonprofit, we started by donating it all to health care heroes and patients,” Schirrippa said.
Unity Bands funding went toward morale and resiliency efforts, including 800 COVID kits for increased-risk patients, personal protective equipment and an initiative, dubbed Feeding the Frontlines, that delivered free meals to health care workers risking their lives to help those sick with the virus.
Funding also enabled clinical studies at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the purchase of a specialized freezer to store virus samples.
Schirrippa said another notable moment was reading a few names at the U.S. Capitol of those who lost their lives to the pandemic supporting COVID Survivors for Change.
COVID Survivors for Change is a nonpartisan, nationwide community of people directly impacted by COVID.
“Our enduring mission moving forward is to support low-income health care heroes and provide credible public health information to at-risk communities to inform decision making,” Schirrippa said.
According to The Brookings Institution — a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that conducts in-depth research — nearly 7 million Americans are underpaid, essential health care workers.
“Even though many doctors and nurses struggle with burnout and moral injury, the full spectrum of health care heroes includes nursing assistants, phlebotomists, home health aides, housekeepers, medical assistants and cooks,” Schirrippa said.
A September 2021 Morning Consult survey among 1,000 U.S. health care workers found nearly one in five quit their job since the start of the pandemic. Among those who kept their job, one in five considered leaving the medical field.
“These are people you need when you go in for help, and you need them at the top of their game,” Schirrippa said.
To further support health care workers, Unity Bands also hosts a virtual speaker series on the last Monday of every month at 7:00pm.
“These are engaging 30-minute segments with a question-and-answer session designed to share ideas and raise awareness of the importance of our mission,” Schirrippa said.
Schirrippa plans to host an appreciation night to deliver meals and gift bags to health care workers. He is currently seeking partners to execute that program.
Additionally, the Unity Bands team plans to host more wristband giveaways at sporting events like they previously did with the Bowie Baysox.
There are several ways to support Unity Band’s mission including volunteering or offering financial support to the organization. Learn more at www.unitybands.org.
Heidler Plumbing is a proud sponsor of Volunteer of the Month. To nominate a volunteer, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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