When Huy Nguyen closed his nail salon in Mobile, Alabama, in response to social distancing orders, he was inspired by a Facebook post written by a local Vietnamese pharmacist calling for personal protective gear donations to alleviate shortages caused by the coronavirus outbreak.
The salon owner locked his doors and offered the salon’s entire stock of face masks and gloves to the cause.
In fact, an entire community of Vietnamese salon owners in Mobile joined Nguyen and answered the call from Facebook. They were able to donate more than 134,000 gloves and 23,000 masks to a nearby hospital.
Nguyen even contacted friends with salons in other cities who might be able to contribute.
“Fighting this virus is a responsibility for every one of us,” he told NBC Asian America. “We don’t work in the medical field, so we cannot fight the virus directly but we want to share our responsibility and share what we have with the community.”
Masks and gloves are necessary sanitation items at all nail salons, so all over the country, Vietnamese-owned nail salons are responding to the shortage of personal protective equipment affecting healthcare workers.
Lisa Nguyen and her parents own Cowboys Nail Bar in Plano, Texas. They’ve decided to donate their full inventory of protective equipment, including 14 boxes of N95 masks, to family members working at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
But in Brentwood, Tennessee, a pair of salon owners are really upping their efforts. After donating all their supplies, the co-owners of Zen Nails decided to convert their salon into a factory to produce more supplies.
When former nurse and salon co-owner Trang Nguyen heard healthcare workers lamenting a shortage of equipment, she wanted to help.
“These people need to be protected before they can take care of patients. I thought we could do masks and gowns because my family knows how to sew,” said Nguyen.
Now, sewing machines run at every nail station in her shop.
Funds for sewing machines and materials were donated by nail salon patrons. Employees are able to volunteer up to nine hours a day in order to make masks and gowns for local hospitals: St. Thomas Medical Partners, Williamson Medical Center, and HCA Healthcare.
They were able to produce more than 3,000 disposable and reusable masks and gowns in the first week at their converted shop.
“We’re trying to do whatever we can at this moment to give back to people,” said Diep Luc, Nguyen’s partner. “We’ve been in this country and it’s done a lot for us, so at a time like this, at this moment of time, it’s really hard for everybody. So whatever we can do, we have to do it.”
Nguyen says they will continue to produce masks as long as they’re able to acquire the raw materials.
She echoes her partner’s sentiment, “We want to give back to the country and our community.”
Even as the economic downturn undoubtedly strains their resources, it’s so inspiring to see small business owners and their employees continue to give back and have a positive impact.