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The Bright Side

Personal Protective Equipment

The Northwestern Regional School No. 7 buildings are closed but school spirit continues undiminished. The school, which always emphasizes kindness and community spirit, has reached out during the corona crisis to help provide personal protective equipment to first responders and hospitals.

First, school volunteers responded to a call from high school Principal Ken Chichester and his wife, Mary, special education department chair, to make facemasks. The Chichesters created kits and community members and Board of Education members have continued to sew and distribute them.

An even more ambitious project was undertaken by the Trotto family. Ron and Heather Trotto are Robotics team mentors, who operate a computer business. Their son, Alex, attends Northwestern Connect Community College technology courses and was looking for way to help. He has his own 3-D printer and the Trottos asked the school to allow access to the district’s printers, as well.

They launched production of face shields for health care workers on their “clean room” front porch. The conference room at their office is used for assembly with the help of daughter, Caitlin. Heather Trotto is in charge of coordinating with the school and arranging distribution.

“We have 3-D printers going almost 24 hours a day,” said Heather Trotto, who said production only slowed during the week Alex took his college exams. “It takes 90 minutes to two hours to print out the frames and another 15 minutes to assemble each mask.”

To date the Trottos have created and delivered 742 masks to area first responders and hospitals as far afield as Hartford and Bristol. Trotto said production will resume full-pace in anticipation of a surge in cases after Connecticut opens its doors.

The materials to make the masks have been privately donated.

In addition to face masks and face shields, the school staff is helping with gowns for health care professions. Nick Maltby, vice president of New Hartford Ambulance, asked for help with making the Tyvek gowns and got a donation of two rolls of Tyvek. Ken Chichester reduced it to smaller bundles and handed it out for volunteer sewers to turn into protective coverings.