The Hahn family, who live on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and have had a summer house on Shelter Island for a decade, had originally planned a mid-March vacation for a week in Hawaii and a week on Shelter Island.
Natalie, 16, and Kyle, 12, were scheduled for spring break from school and Doug and Melissa were preparing to pack up their kids and go island-hopping, albeit a hop of 5,000 miles.
The COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic made it clear they would go to a single island, and it turns out it will be much longer than two weeks.
“We decided to come out and stay,” Ms. Hahn said. “It’s so beautiful, the kids can go for bike rides and Doug and I can golf, which we love.”
Taking North Ferry and going to the IGA, the kids thought that some employees, all wearing masks and gloves, might want stronger protection against the virus when working closely to serve the public.
The stars aligned, when Ms. Hahn, an alumna of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), heard from one of her professors that a research and development arm of the university had, in response to the pandemic, created a design for plastic face shields that could be easily assembled and inexpensive to mass produce.
Once a prototype was completed, a Massachusetts-based company, Polymershapes, began making the lightweight plastic face shields for under $3.
The shields lie flat in boxes and take about a minute to assemble, Ms. Hahn said, unlike the heavier and stronger face shields. Soon they were being shipped to hospitals and first responders.
Natalie and Kyle urged their parents to get involved and bring some shields to Shelter Island.
Ms. Hahn said that to purchase the inexpensive life-savers, buyers must sign a statement of intent of precisely what they plan to use them for “to prevent price gouging.”
The Hahns bought 10 boxes of 125 shields per box and have been giving them free of charge to those who need them. The family donated 10 boxes to North Ferry, although Bridg Hunt, manager of the North Ferry, said the shields were “too light for working in the wind.” He has redirected them to Eastern Long Island Hospital.
“They’re wonderful,” Mr. Hunt said. “Very ingenious and will really work well in an indoor setting.”
The IGA took 10 boxes for their employees who work in the store and on the grounds, Ms. Hahn said.
The family has also sent boxes to Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, and has contacted Dr. Kelt’s office, and Police Chief Jim Read, emergency management coordinator for the Island.
“We’re so grateful to be healthy and live in a beautiful, healthy place,” Ms. Hahn said. “The children wanted to do something to help others. We’re so happy to do it.”