Some of the 40 masks created using Mount Carmel High School's 3D printers. Credit: Provided

WOODLAWN — With Mount Carmel High School closed and its 3D printers bound to sit idle, faculty have printed 40 protective masks for senior home workers and plan to continue for “as long as we need to.”

Science and STEM department head Caribee Collier. Credit: Provided

STEM department head Caribee Collier, science teacher Michael Rodgers and “jack of all trades” tech administrator Tim Surges are printing and delivering the masks to organizers with the online group Chicago Makers Fighting COVID-19.

Each of the school’s six printers takes about two hours to print one mask, using a design developed by doctors at the Billings Clinic in Montana.

To follow social distancing guidelines, the trio works in shifts at the all-boys Catholic school at 6410 S. Dante Ave., monitoring the machines and making sure they’re filled with printing filament.

Science teacher Michael Rodgers. Credit: Provided

Right now, the masks are being created for workers at Silver Birch Assisted Living, a group of nine senior homes across Indiana. The closest facility to Chicago is located in Hammond.

The project started when 1974 graduate Paul Rowan connected school officials with the Chicago Makers Facebook group, according to DiFilippo.

Mount Carmel faculty print out the shell of the mask, while Chicago Makers volunteers install a filter and tweak it “to hold a better seal and be more comfortable” for its wearer, Chicago Makers co-founder Billy McGivern said.

Tech staffer Tim Surges. Credit: Provided

McGivern and co-founder Charlie Hasson created Chicago Makers to unite local 3D printers who have the time and resources to create masks.

In total, group members have printed and donated nearly 200 masks to Silver Birch, selected because McGivern and Hasson’s employer has built a few of the senior homes. Their “first goal” is to donate 450 masks to the facilities.

Silver Birch employees “were giving us some horror stories about what they’re up against,” McGivern said. “Before reaching out to us, they were paper-clipping plastic sheets to glasses to get them some amount of protection. A lot of their employees are becoming sick.”

Chicago Makers plans to expand its operation “if we can start getting more volume with our donations platform,” McGivern said. Organizers are reaching out to other health facilities and grocery stores across Chicagoland to determine what they need.

“We’ve had a couple of conversations with Get Me PPE,” he said. “They’re Northwestern medical students seeking donations for masks going directly to hospitals.”

Members of rival Chicago-area Catholic schools have banded together to assist health care workers through the coronavirus crisis, McGivern said. If there’s any good to be found from the pandemic, it’s that “people are becoming so much more connected again” as they seek to help one another.

Mount Carmel is “our workhorse right now,” McGivern said. “You know you’re living in a weird time when there are Mount Carmel and Loyola and Brother Rice guys all working together.”

You can donate to Chicago Makers through the Creativity for a Cause platform. Donations help cover the cost of manufacturing and distributing the masks.

“If you don’t have a 3D printer, the best thing you can do is spread the word,” McGivern said.

Block Club Chicago’s coronavirus coverage is free for all readers. Block Club is an independent, 501(c)(3), journalist-run newsroom.

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