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Chester County Press

Student’s Eagle Scout project creates face shields for local EMS units

07/07/2020 07:44PM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw

Staff Writer

Alex Farina is about to enter his senior year at Avon Grove High School in the fall, but he has spent his summer completing a project whose impact is designed to protect the lives of dozens of EMS professionals throughout Chester County, and the lives they themselves help to save.

On July 2, representatives from five area fire companies gathered at the West Grove Fire Station No. 22 to receive more than 150 protective face shields that Farina and his fellow members of Eagle Scout Troop 18 created, as part of Farina’s Eagle Scout project.

The recipients of the face shields are from the Avondale, Kennett Square, Longwood, Oxford and West Grove fire companies, as well as Medic 94, and representatives from each of the units attended the event.

The idea to create the face shields came to Farina soon after the COVID-19 pandemic reached the United States, when he saw news reports stating that essential PPEs – such as face shields -- were in vastly short supply.

Searching online, Farina found a template for making a face shield, made modifications to it and worked with other scouts in his troop to create the shields in an assembly line process. The West Grove chapter of the Knights of Columbus of West Grove donated funding that allowed Farina to purchase the acrylic for the face shields, which he sourced from JDS Industries.

“I saw on the news that all medical professions, hospitals and other groups like first responders and EMS units did not have the proper amounts of PPE that they needed, and were having to have them imported from other countries, because we didn’t have them in our own country,” Farina said. “At the same time, I began to see that small groups of people were using extra fabric and buying elastic and making homemade face masks, and that other groups were making face shields.”

“Alex spent a lot of time looking at potential ideas for his Eagle Scout project, but once COVID-19 started kicking in, he would see that there were problems getting PPEs to people on the front lines of this pandemic,” said Ed Farina, Alex’s father. “He saw that schools like Penn State University and Drexel University were having their engineering programs create masks from 3-D printers, and he said, ‘Wait. We have that capability at home.’

“He went online and found a number of different patterns for face shields and tried them out. Eventually, he zeroed in on this design and made improvements to it.” 

Gary Vinnacombe, the EMS manager at the West Grove Fire Station, said that Farina’s Eagle Scout project is not only a kind gesture, but a crucial addition to the emergency services industry.

“When the pandemic first hit, everybody was scrambling for the same stockpile of PPEs – EMS units, hospitals and the long-term care facilities, he said. “Contributions such as what’s coming from Alex is putting us in a really good spot for what we’re dealing with currently, and what I anticipate we will be dealing with in the future.

“With every call we respond to, we don the appropriate level of PPE, as if the patient has COVID-19,” said Vinnacombe, who is also the president of the Chester County EMS Council, which serves as the advisory board to the Chester County Department of Emergency Services and represents all EMS services in the county. “If someone falls and twists their ankle, we still go in with the proper protection – the gloves, the mask, the shield – because while they could not be displaying any symptoms of the virus, we treat every patient as if they potentially have it. It’s a precaution that will make our crews safer and our patients safer.”

The extent of Farina’s altruism for his community does not end with the completion of his Eagle Scout project. He is also a volunteer at the Avon Grove Intermediate School, where he works with students after school.

“Alex does always amaze us, and he is always looking for other ways to help people,” said his mother, Madelyn.

To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email [email protected].