“There is a sense of urgency and desperation; we are literally saving life. Our responders need these supplies NOW.” This was the heartfelt plea of Mr. Yechiel Swissa, a Lakewood resident who has been completely devoting himself these past few weeks to saving lives by sending facemasks and other crucial supplies to chessed organizations and individuals throughout the country.
Mr. Swissa recalls the start of his organization. “Several weeks ago, my boss, Mr. Judah Bergman, saw this coming, and told to buy masks for my family and friends. I ended up buying 2000 masks. Word got out that I had these, and I began to get calls from various organizations, including Bikur Cholim, chevra kaddishas, Hatzalah, and Tomchei Shabbos, that were desperate for supplies, to protect their volunteers. Before I knew it, I had hundreds of people reaching out to me. I said to myself, ‘Hashem Yerachem! Why isn’t this being taken care of?’”
It was then that Supplies4Life was launched. Within a few days, a huge company was operating full force, under the guidance of Harav Uren Reich, shlita. Mr. Swissa borrowed money, began reaching out to distributors and bought the various supplies that are needed for volunteer workers to protect themselves when working with potential COVID-19 situations. Some of the supplies that are being distributed include masks, gloves, gowns, and hand sanitizer.
Mr. Swissa is ably assisted by a cadre of approximately 75 totally selfless volunteers, who managed to organize various departments to help the organization run efficiently. These departments include logistics, marketing, PR, outreach, sourcing, social media, connection to Rabbanim, connection to other major organizations, and more.
The volunteers have been dedicating their time to this crucial cause, wracking their brains for creative solutions, while trying to get ready for Pesach and care for their own families. Mr. Shmuel Alpert, a volunteer in charge of outreach, commented, “The volunteers are giving up a lot. We are trying to get the message out to all Jewish communities that we have supplies available.”
To date, thousands of masks were given out to over 100 organizations across the United States, including in New York, New Jersey, Florida, California, Ohio, Texas, and more. But more is needed, and a campaign is ongoing, with a goal of raising money for 500,000 more masks.
“The messages that I get are heartbreaking,” notes Mr. Swissa. “I got a call from a Chevra Kaddisha. The man told me that he did 11 taharos in the past 6 hours and he does not have masks. A lady came to do a taharah, and said, ‘I have a family. I can’t do the taharah if I don’t have a mask.’ The director gave her his mask – one that he already had been wearing for several hours.”
Another heartbreaking text, just a sample of countless others, was received from an individual who explained that her husband has been in rehab for months and is considered high risk. She also has a two-week-old baby who has not been brought home yet, as the mother is not feeling well. ‘Can you do anything to help bring our family together?” she pleaded.
“We are dedicated to helping both organizations and individuals,” Mr. Swissa explained. “There are cancer patients who are extremely vulnerable. They need masks for their own safety, and also to make them feel more comfortable. It is bad enough to have to go for chemotherapy, they should not also be afraid that they will catch COVID-19 in the hospital, or anywhere else. People also need masks to that they can check up on elderly parents and grandparents, and make sure that they are doing okay. We are also helping frum doctors and nurses to get the supplies that they need.”
Another massive challenge is getting supplies at a reasonable price. At times, Mr. Swissa was forced to pay inflated prices, but did so as he was desperate to get whatever he could. Supplies4Lives also does whatever they can to get the supplies delivered in a timely manner, including overnight shipping if pick up is not possible. Many of the organizations do not have the budget to pay for the supplies, but nevertheless, they need them now, and Supplies4Lives sends the supplies in any case.
“We are 100 percent committed to every Jewish organization or individual who needs these lifesaving supplies,” Mr. Swissa insisted. “It is enough that volunteers are on the front line, exposing themselves and families to virus. The bare minimum that we owe them is to give them the protection that we need. This is our basic hakaras hatov.”
To obtain supplies, please contact 347-244-5451