MGM has come together in moving and motivating ways in the last four months. Here are a few highlights of the capital city’s community spirit shining brightly through the COVID-19 cloud.
Throughout the unprecedented uncertainty and trying times brought on by COVID-19 and the resulting restrictions and shutdowns, Montgomery has proven itself a true community. Businesses and organizations of all sizes and types — as well as countless individual residents — have stepped up and joined hands, donating time, talents, resources, services and money to help their neighbors better navigate the crisis.
Here, we’ve compiled a few of their stories, but these are by no means the only ones. Read on for some inspiration, and read even more on the Chamber’s Doing Good Together page on its website, which is dedicated to the capital city’s recovery from the pandemic.
AUM Helps Healthcare Workers With most of its on-campus resident students gone due to COVID-19, AUM had space to spare and so opened 48 of its dorm rooms for use by some of Baptist Health’s frontline health care workers concerned about going home and spreading germs to family members. The rooms all have private bathrooms and kitchens, Wi-Fi, cable and laundry. Baptist has taken responsibility for cleaning the rooms, and other businesses – including Lowe’s and Walmart -- have donated other items and services.
Mobis Alabama Donates Masks
Mobis Alabama donated 17,000 face masks to help protect frontline workers in central Alabama and west Georgia. About 10,000 masks went to the Montgomery County Emergency Management Agency; 2,000 masks were sent to East Alabama Medical Center; and another 5,000 masks went to the Troup County (GA) Emergency Management Agency.
HeART for our Heroes Program
With many healthcare professionals across the country working diligently to keep communities safe, the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts (MMFA) showed support by organizing a “HeART for our Heroes Program,” with the help of an anonymous local Montgomery artist.
The artist donated their personal protective equipment, which they wear while creating their own art, to healthcare facilities. In return, the artist asked that the museum collect words and images of encouragement from children across the region to accompany the donation, with the goal of bringing a small amount of hope, support and thanks to Montgomery’s local healthcare heroes.
MGM Coffee Shop Supports Community in a New Way
As the restaurant industry across the country has been forced to make unprecedented changes amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a local coffee shop is giving back and serving the community in a new way. Located on Dexter Avenue in the Kress Building, Prevail Union coffee shop has long believed, as did William Faulkner, that "man will not merely endure, he will prevail.” Now, this coffee shop is continuing to spread its message of hope and community and is prevailing by offering “batch brew donations” to the people who need it most – those on the front lines fighting COVID-19. For $15, individuals can purchase 96 oz. of Prevail coffee to be brewed, packaged and delivered to the doctors and nurses in Montgomery area hospitals.
Community Communication Proves Key
In early April, leaders from businesses, nonprofits, churches and other organizations all over the River Region came together to create Concerned Community Providers Group. The group offered 150 leaders the chance to effectively and efficiently discuss community needs related to COVID-19 by participating in three large conference calls. Officials on the calls included U.S. Sen. Doug Jones, Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, Montgomery County commissioners and leaders who work alongside Governor Kay Ivey.
Thanks to the calls, area nonprofits had their voices heard by those in positions to enact policy and access resources, and several saw real results like donations that addressed their specific needs. The calls are also being credited with solving the issue of internet access for children in public housing so they could participate in online school.
Hyundai Donates Needed COVID-19 Tests
Thanks to a partnership between the City of Montgomery, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama, Hyundai Hope on Wheels, Health Services, Incorporated (HSI), Assurance Scientific Laboratories and the Alabama Department of Public Health, expanded drive-thru testing for COVID-19 became available in west Montgomery and Hayneville in mid-May. Members of the public are being tested for the COVID-19 Coronavirus without having to pay any out-of-pocket costs. HSI is operating the test sites at its Montgomery Primary Healthcare Center and Hayneville Family Health Center locations.
“Our community owes a huge debt of gratitude to Hyundai for its generosity and assistance in setting up these drive-thru testing sites,” said Montgomery Mayor Steven L. Reed. “I reached out to Hyundai because South Korea’s response to the pandemic has been extraordinary. Our cooperative effort with Hyundai will enable us to increase testing and better serve the people of Montgomery.” When the pandemic began to heavily impact Alabama, Mayor Reed reached out to Hyundai leadership in Alabama, California and the Republic of South Korea seeking surplus testing supplies. The automaker responded with 5,000 COVID-19 RT-PCR tests donated to the City and 5,000 donated to the State of Alabama. The tests, developed by Seegene, a South Korea-based global leader in multiplex molecular diagnostics, can simultaneously detect three different genes (N, E and RdRP genes) of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for causing COVID-19.
The Seegene tests will be analyzed by Assurance Scientific Laboratories. Assurance Labs, based in Birmingham, specializes in molecular diagnostics and microbiology. Assurance Labs was the first commercial lab in the state of Alabama to begin testing for COVID-19. Since it began testing on March 11, the company has tested almost 40,000 patients and provides test results within 24 hours of the time specimens are received.
Montgomery Restaurant Adapts During Virus Times
Following the statewide mandate earlier this spring to close dine-in service, downtown restaurant Cahawba House’s sales plummeted 80 percent in just one week. Instead of worrying about the threat of the coronavirus’ impact on their restaurant, owners and brother and sister pair Tara and Tim Essary started to rethink their business model.
With more and more grocery stores struggling to restock their shelves, the duo decided to remove all the restaurant’s tables from the dining room to make room for freezers and shelving to create their own market called Bama Bonafide Bodega. Tara herself did research by going to different grocery stores in the area to see what each store was out of, which is how the owners determined what to stock. Local farmers, who were some of the restaurant’s original suppliers, were happy to jump in and fill the fridges with a variety of local products. Other offerings were staples like fresh bread, milk, dry goods and frozen, Southern-comfort dinners, all available for curbside pickup. The market also sold household items such as soap, gloves, disinfectant wipes and toilet paper.
MGM Medical Supply Distributor Steps Up
As the COVID-19 pandemic advances, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) has become vital to safely operating most businesses. More demand and global supply interruptions have made it increasingly difficult to find legitimate and reasonably priced sources for PPE. For example, the cost of PPE supplies has risen by more than 1,000 percent according to a report published in April by the Society for Healthcare Organization Procurement Professionals.
Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth called on the state’s medical supply distributors to lend a hand. Turenne PharMedCo Medical Supply Services answered this call and has provided unprecedented access to about 20 types of PPE and infection control supplies for direct sale to Alabama businesses. For more than 25 years, the Montgomery-based medical supply distributor has exclusively served healthcare providers such as nursing homes, hospice agencies and assisted living facilities. The dire need for PPE in Alabama motivated Turenne PharMedCo to expand access to its products. “The threat of COVID-19 has made it vital for companies to do anything they can to protect their employees and customers while maintaining operations,” said Craig Miller, Vice President of Turenne PharMedCo. “We are grateful to help make our community safer and support Alabama businesses."
MAX Credit Union Meets Needs
Through its non-profit foundation, MAX4Kids, MAX Credit Union made a donation of more than $100,000 to local organizations for COVID-19 relief efforts and to help those facing food insecurity. In all, 16 area organizations are receiving donations.
The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting response created an unprecedented need in Central and East Alabama, particularly for basic necessities like food. Responding to community needs during challenging times is important to MAX, said MAX CEO Martin Head. “Many individuals and families in our area are facing extreme hardship, and we want to support the organizations who are actively working to provide relief,” he said.
Supporting local children’s charities is a key focus of the MAX4Kids Foundation, which was started by MAX team members in 2001. The COVID-19 pandemic left many non-profit organizations concerned about funding. “We want our partner organizations to know that we haven’t forgotten them and will continue supporting them during times of great need,” said Kenneth Hill, MAX4Kids Board President. “These organizations serve the most vulnerable individuals in our communities, our children, and MAX4Kids is doing all we can to sustain their outreach efforts while children are away from schools and organized activities.”
Local Law Firm Makes Mask Donation
In an effort to press forward with the firm motto of “helping those who need it most,” Beasley Allen Law Firm lawyers and staff donated giveaways for morale boosting events at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta, fed more than 500 nurses at three Montgomery hospitals and donated to the Montgomery Police Department relief fund. Members of the firm’s staff are personally making masks and providing disinfecting supplies to those in need. Additionally, the firm donated 1,500 N95 masks to help replenish Montgomery area first responders’ personal protective equipment.
“We are blessed to be in a position to help others year in and year out, and the current state of our country has our staff and lawyers doing what they can to reach out to our community,” Beasley Allen Lead Product Liability Attorney Greg Allen said. “First responders are not only continuing their work as usual, they are doing it with added uncertainty about the virus, and we hope that the donation of masks will give them some comforting protection against this threat.” Beasley Allen Managing Attorney Tom Methvin said, “We are grateful for the work of all of our first responders and we understand the risks they take every day. God bless each person that puts their safety on the line for others, especially in these trying times.”
Chamber Connects Students, Makers and Air Force Innovators to Make Face Shields
In April, the Chamber brought together Air Force innovation specialists, the local maker community and area students to produce 3D printed personal protection equipment (PPE) for local healthcare providers. TechMGM, the Chamber’s tech economic and workforce development initiative, Air University’s MGMWERX innovation center and a collaborative of local makers called Montgomery Fighting COVID together issued a STEM challenge to activate additional 3D printers and encourage student and educator volunteers to join the effort to produce face shields for the Montgomery Emergency Management Agency (EMA), which distributed them to healthcare providers.
“In Montgomery, we have often faced our greatest challenges when communities come together. We are uniquely positioned at the Chamber to bring together these groups to maximize each of their resources, talents and abilities to not only provide desperately needed PPE gear, but make connections between our military, maker and education communities. Perhaps just as importantly, we are showing students that technical and creative abilities not only make for great careers but can even save lives,” said Charisse Stokes, Executive Director, TechMGM.
MGMWERX generously ordered and provided the materials for printing and assembly of the face shields. Montgomery Fighting COVID provides the printing files and list of preferred materials for the challenge and also assembles and sanitizes the shields before providing them to the Montgomery EMA.
Ten local public and private schools have volunteered to participate so far, including Alabama State University, Alabama Christian Academy, Brewbaker Middle School, Cornerstone Classical Christian Academy, Eastwood Presbyterian Church School, Elmore County Technical Center, Montgomery Catholic Preparatory School, Pike Road High School, Prattville High School and Trinity Presbyterian School.