Sharon Chinese Association Donates Masks, Helps Local Hospitals Get the Protection They Need

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As doctors and nurses fight bravely on the front lines to save as many coronavirus patients as possible, protecting them has been a big problem. The shortage of protective equipment has sparked protests and debates; some doctors and nurses are desperately in need of masks, surgical gear, and eye equipment as the cases continue to soar.

In Sharon, Massachusetts, a town of about 18,000 about 17 miles southwest of downtown Boston, the Sharon Chinese Association, a non-profit organization, has risen to the challenge. Setting up a comprehensive network of donations and purchases of personal protective equipment and working with local hospitals and health care centers, the association has donated 597 packages of protective gear such as masks and surgical protection to local hospitals such as Boston Medical Center, Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Attleboro, and Norwood Hospital. Health centers in Lawrence, Brockton, and Tufts, and even nursing homes like the Whitney Place in Sharon and Sunrise of Norwood, have also received aid. In total, the association has donated 27,082 packages of personal protective equipment.

I spoke with the chairman of the Sharon Chinese Association, Mr. Zhong Huang, who is the main coordinator of this volunteer effort, and Ms. Xiaojie Yin, who organizes the purchases and donations from Boston University families in China.

The donations started at the end of January as reports of coronavirus casualties in Wuhan, China became known in the United States. As a member of the Chinese community, Mr. Huang had connections with friends and families in China who were distraught about the situation after witnessing the effects of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) in 2003. Mr. Huang therefore organized community members in the United States to collect masks, personal protective equipment packages, and monetary donations to ship back to China. They also purchased protective equipment from China to ship to Wuhan.

With a team of seven (including four board members), the Sharon Chinese Association raised more than $14,000 to help with the relief effort in China. Because it was Mr. Huang’s family and friends that were being affected, it hit home for him. As reported need for such equipment in China slowly subsided, the number of coronavirus cases in the United States began to increase exponentially, bringing his attention to serving the medical facilities and personnel in this country.

Now, his work consists of spending an average of three hours a day accepting new packages and donations and connecting with hospitals and medical centers in need of personal protective equipment. Due to the 12-hour time difference between Boston and coastal China and the difficulty of shipping the equipment from China, it is a complicated and tiring business that requires patience and passion.

Ms. Yin has also worked hard on the volunteer effort, saying that “other than cooking, eating, and sleeping,” all of her energy has gone to securing equipment for medical personnel in need. About 150 of the donors are Chinese parents of Boston University students, and she acts as a bridge between them and the Sharon Chinese Association, communicating with all sides about the supplies needed. When parents and families in China have questions, she answers them, and writes daily articles to keep people informed of the situation which she posts on a blog.

Each has a sense of moral obligation. Mr. Huang says that “it is our duty to help the sick people in Boston and their health providers as people who have the resources, the energy, and the time to relieve their burden.”

There is a saying that goes if you save one health care worker, you save twelve patients. Making sure that the medical teams and caretakers are protected means that that protection will be extended to their patients as well, in a butterfly effect.

Mr. Huang views this volunteer program as helping the government fill the gaps that they’ve missed. The government will do its utmost to help the masses and the areas that are in the most critical conditions, and the communities and individuals such as the Sharon Chinese Association will supplement by helping the areas that might have been overlooked.

Mr. Huang says his favorite memory so far is delivering equipment to a health care facility and seeing a nurse wearing a mask who didn’t have one before the donations started arriving.

He knows that the nurse is protected now and can safely tend to the ill without sacrificing her own health or transmitting the virus to others.

 “COVID-19 is an unprecedented challenge to the entire human race and to conquer the disease, we must all work together and put aside the blame to focus on saving lives,” Mr. Huang says. “As a team, we have so much power to help so many people continue to enjoy everything that life can offer us.”

To learn more about the Sharon Chinese Association and their mission, contact Mr. Zhong Huang at [email protected] or visit the association’s Facebook page


Margaret Li is a junior at Sharon High School.  Yuyuan Huang assisted with the editing of this article.