UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Two Paterno Fellows and Schreyer Scholars are working to make a difference in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Brendan Bernicker, a 2019 philosophy and political science alumnus, and Ezra Gershanok, a 2021 economics major, helped create a non-profit organization called the COVID Response Network.
The purpose of the organization is to raise funds to distribute masks across the country to those in need who may not have existing connections to a medical supplier, such as homeless shelters, food pantries, and county jails, as well as those who volunteer and work at those organizations.
In addition to these two Penn Staters, the organization includes Rayna Recht, a sophomore at Tulane University, and Jacob Halbert, Gershanok’s business partner, a former Penn State student, and a junior at the University of Michigan. In 2018, Gershanok and Halbert created the Keyper, a silicone phone wallet that can not only hold cards, but also a room key. Their manufacturer recently offered to send them surgical-style masks, and from there, the idea for the COVID Response Network was born.
The group members have already sent 10,000 masks to New York, where the masks will be donated to homeless shelters. They also sent masks to a retirement home in Harrisburg that has a very short supply of personal protective equipment. In the last couple days, they delivered 4,000 masks in Philadelphia and 16,000 masks in Pittsburgh.
"Our main function is connecting donors with people who need relief supplies like masks. All we’re doing is connecting the dots,” said Halbert.