Memphis kindness blog, April 17: MicroPort donates 100,000 surgical masks

By Updated: April 19, 2020 9:24 PM CT | Published: April 11, 2020 4:00 AM CT

As we navigate through this difficult time of dealing with the coronavirus, it is important to capture those instances where  Memphians are coming together for each other.  Those acts of kindness, generous moments and just feel-good instances happening all around us. Our reporters will be out looking for these.  We also want to hear from you. If you have a nomination for our Memphis Kindness blog, email us at  Thank you for reading. — Ronnie Ramos, executive editor

Editor’s Note: The Daily Memphian is making our coronavirus coverage accessible to all readers — no subscription needed. Our journalists continue to work around the clock to provide you with the extensive coverage you need; if you can subscribe, please do

April 16, 2020

Laid Off Lawn Care was robbed – but saved by Memphis again!

9:53 PM CT, April 16

Laid off bartender-turned-lawn care-worker Scott Briggs stumbled across a brand-new challenge Thursday. But don’t worry, this story ends like so many others – Memphis answered the call!

For those who didn’t get a chance to read the first feature story in The Daily Memphian about Briggs’ journey earlier this week, the inspiring former BarWare employee was laid off from his job making cocktails due to the coronavirus and unable to collect an unemployment check. In an effort to stay off the couch and pay the bills, he put his neighborhood lawn-of-the-month reputation on the line by starting his own lawn care business titled “Laid Off Lawn Care” with only a borrowed pickup truck, a string trimmer and a Honda push mower.

Jobless claims slow, climb past 44,000 in Memphis area

Quickly Briggs piled up two weeks of work on his own, and received even more intrigue about his new business from the feature story and a call he made for free commercial Friday on 92.9 FM’s Geoff Calkins Show.

Read More


April 17, 2020

MicroPort donates 100,000 surgical masks

2:45 PM CT, April 17

MicroPort Scientific and its Arlington-based orthopedics division have donated 100,000 surgical masks to Memphis Fire Services, and the company plans to donate 100,000 more locally soon.

“The generosity of our community never ceases to amaze me,” Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland said. “We are facing unprecedented times, and each day, more and more are stepping up to help.”

MicroPort, which is owned by a Chinese company based in Shanghai, has employees all over the world. When the virus  hit China in early February, the parent company’s COO Glendy Wang, who lives in Shanghai, was in Arlington, and she was already hearing about shortages of masks and other PPE (personal protective equipment) in China. 

“We were able to secure some masks to send home with her, then our purchasing group helped to secure large quantities of masks for our employees in China and their families, as well as some to donate there,” Robin McCord, MicroPort VP of Human Resources in Arlington, said.

As the virus began to spread around the world, MicroPort founder Dr. Zhaohua Chang earmarked 200,000 masks to be sent to MicroPort in Arlington.

“These are certainly challenging times for everyone, but especially for those members serving on the frontline,” Memphis Fire Services Director Gina Sweat said. “This generous donation will definitely assist our team greatly with the necessary equipment to safely combat this deadly virus.”

According to Keith Staples, MFS deputy chief of logistics, the surgical masks will be distributed to firefighters, paramedics, law enforcement officers, public works personnel and various health care workers and other support/volunteers throughout agencies requesting PPE from the COVID-19 Unified Task Force Emergency Operations Center.

The delivery this week was the first shipment of 100,000 masks, and another 100,000 masks should arrive next week.


Collierville driveway concert draws neighbors together

8:04 PM CT, April 17

One Collierville singer is spreading smiles with sounds throughout Halle Plantation.

Isaac Schmidt is performing songs weekly in his driveway. Families, properly social distanced, stop by and listen as he plays his tunes.

Schmidt is a student of Bob Westbrook, whose taught many Memphis singers including Justin Timberlake.

He creates the setlist for each show himself according to his mother, Bethany Schmidt. Some are songs he enjoys. Some are requested by listeners. His favorite genres are classic rock and contemporary Christian.

The idea came after he saw some posts on Facebook of a similar concept done elsewhere. His mother said he saw it and knew he could pull it off in front of his family’s home.

“We have precious neighbors and he just wanted to bring them some joy and it was a much bigger hit than any of us thought,” Bethany Schmidt said.

The videos are also streamed on Facebook Live so those who want to watch from their home can do so.


Grizzlies set up community fund

2:39 PM CT, April 17

Members of the Memphis Grizzlies organization – including players, coaches, front office and business operations personnel – have pooled resources to set up a “Memphis Grizzlies Community Assistance Fund” administered by the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, a team official said on Friday afternoon.

The fund will be divided into three focus areas: education, food insecurity and support for small businesses and people in the local gig economy.

Education support will be focused on buying learning materials for Shelby County Schools, a continuation of a community effort begun by head coach Taylor Jenkins during the season. Food insecurity resources will go to the Mid-South Food Bank and MIFA’s “meals on wheels” program. The small business/gig-economy funds will contribute to the Community Foundation’s pre-existing Mid-South COVID-19 Regional Response Fund.

The team official declined to specify the amount of the fund, but says that it was prompted by Grizzlies players and is designed to be distributed over multiple months


April 16, 2020

BlueCross donating $75,000 for Memphis testing, treatment

4:55 PM CT, April 16

BlueCross BlueShield Foundation of Tennessee Foundation is donating $75,000 to the City of Memphis for COVID-19 testing, treatment and other health-related services for the uninsured.

The grant supports the expansion of free COVID-19 testing for local residents who do not have health insurance. Residents do not need a physician referral to receive testing.

“Our BlueCross mission to serve extends beyond our members,” said Roy Vaughn, executive director of the BlueCross Foundation. “And our foundation is helping support some of our community’s most vulnerable residents during this critical time.”

The Community Foundation of Greater Memphis will manage the funds.

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee has also donated personal protective equipment (PPE) to some health systems in the state.

Other COVID-19 related actions the company has taken includes waiving all member cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatments, including hospitalizations from in-network providers through May 31; allowing early prescription refills and 90-day prescriptions to avoid increased risk of exposure and expanding access to telehealth services.

The BlueCross BlueShield Foundation earlier had committed to provide $3.25 million to food banks across Tennessee. Mid-South Food Bank already has received $750,000 of the funds.


April 14, 2020

St. Jude patients get special surprise from golf star

8:47 PM CT, April 14

St. Jude patient Dakota Cunningham,14, made a hole-in-one last week on the golf course.

Dakota finished his leukemia treatment in February and went to the fairways for some social distancing fun. 

Last year, Dakota partnered with pro-golfer Justin Rose at the 2019 World Golf Championship-FedEx St. Jude Invitational. When Rose came up a few feet short on a 50-foot putt, Dakota finished it off securing a $50,000 donation from FedEx to St. Jude.

After his hole-in-one, he got a surprise video from Rose. The video message brought tears to his eyes.


April 15, 2020

Former Tiger Anthony Miller encourages donations to MIFA

2:55 PM CT, April 15

Chicago Bears wide receiver Anthony Miller has donated to the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association and is challenging his supporters to do the same as they battle the effects of the coronavirus. 

MIFA aims to assist families in crisis during the coronavirus outbreak. A Meals on Wheels program delivers hot meals and frozen meals to store to seniors. According to a MIFA release, they are “currently dispatching 10,000 frozen and shelf-stable meals each week to our 2,000 senior clients.”

Miller is the Tigers all-time leader in career receptions, career receiving yards and career touchdowns after 38 games with the Tigers. He holds the single-season and single-game record for each receiving category as well.

The Bears selected Miller with pick 51 in the second round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He’s totaled 1,079 yards and nine touchdowns in two seasons in Chicago. 

Miller is no stranger to giving back to the Memphis community. The Christian Brothers High School graduate has run camps and donated to the local Girls and Boys Club of Memphis.


ArtsMemphis, Music Export Memphis to distribute $77,190 to 159 artists

11:48 AM CT, April 15

Two local organizations are distributing $77,190 to 159 Shelby County artists this week through the Artist Emergency Fund.

ArtsMemphis and Music Export Memphis are distributing the grants, which were made possible by a Community Foundation of Greater Memphis COVID-19 Regional Response Fund grant, and along with donations from the Assisi Foundation, Crosstown Arts, Hyde Family Foundation and individuals.

The fund became public April 1 and can be used to support artists creating music, visual art, film and media arts, literary arts, theater and dance. 

The groups announced that the Kresge Foundation is donating $100,000 to ArtsMemphis and $85,000 to Music Export Memphis for future Artist Emergency Fund grants. 

The application deadline for the next round of grants is April 22. Artists can apply for grants here.

ArtsMemphis community survey of local art organizations and individual artists predicts more than $1.19 million in lost income for March 2020 for organizations and $507,000 for individual artists. And the anticipated income loss for April through June based on cancellations and postponements is more than $7.4 million for organizations and $1.45 million for individual artists.

The survey, completed by 61 groups and 200 individuals, can be found here

“The Mid-South COVID-19 Regional Response Fund is a reflection of trusted relationships and a shared, immediate desire to provide relief to those hit the hardest in our community,” said Bob Fockler, President of the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, in a statement. “ArtsMemphis’ ability to, in short order, activate, aggregate and expedite funds to artists in three dozen zip codes is exactly how we intended this to work.”


April 14, 2020

Frayser church and gas station to give away free gas Wednesday

3:35 PM CT, April 14

A Frayser church and a local gas station owner are partnering to give away at least 1,000 gallons of free gas this week in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pursuit of God Church and Dell’s Hollywood - Marathon are providing $10 of free gas to each person who drives up to the gas station at 2637 James Rd. from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 15.

Frayser church expands after donation from Bellevue

The idea came from finding a way to assist Frayser residents with their transportation efforts in the midst of the coronavirus, Ricky Floyd, Pursuit of God Church pastor, said. 

Read More


Family cheers for FedEx personnel

9:09 PM CT, April 14

While many people have stopped flying to vacation destinations, Federal Express continues to fly essential items needed during the coronavirus pandemic.

One family had a personal connection to the company.

“My Husband love planes. My Dad loves planes. My father-in-law is a retired FedEx Captain. He loved his career there. Several of our friends work at FedEx,” Katie Gardner posted to Facebook. 

Her family has spent several days out in the cell phone lot waving pompoms and cheering on the FedEx pilots as they take off from Memphis.

When she was little, her parents took her to the airport just to watch planes take off and land. Now, she is able to share the tradition with her children, but use it as an act of kindness to thank the pilots.


FedEx Logistics makes, donates 3,000 face shields for front-line workers

2:35 PM CT, April 14

FedEx Logistics produced and donated 3,000 face shields to six Memphis area hospitals.

The shields have a clear plastic covering that protects health care professionals’ eyes, nose and mouth from infectious respiratory droplets when they’re treating COVID-19 patients. The shields were distributed this week.

“We have the technology to create small quantities of much-needed protective face shields and are honored to use that technology to give back to our local healthcare heroes,” said Udo Lange, president and chief executive officer of the logistics unit of Memphis-based FedEx Corp.

“I’m proud that our team is able to connect our local health professionals with the protective gear needed to help keep them safe as they face this pandemic on the front lines,” Lange said.

The shields were manufactured and distributed as a pandemic countermeasure covered by the PREP (Public Readiness and Emergency Preparedness) Act, under the authority of Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland.

“FedEx is deeply rooted in Memphis, and that means this community’s fight against COVID-19 is our fight,” Lange said. “We applaud our local health care professionals and appreciate their sacrifice as they work to protect our families, friends and neighbors during this global pandemic.”


April 13, 2020

Birthday and ball celebrated for Westminster senior

8:35 PM CT, April 13

Keeping with the shelter-in-place guidelines, J. and Sissy Hickman couldn’t let their daughter’s 18th birthday go by without an acknowledgement and a celebration, of sorts.

Elizabeth Ann Hickman’s senior classmates from Westminster Academy had driven by the day before for a birthday parade. She turned 18 on April 13, so her parents decided to host Westminster’s traditional Protocol Ball at home. 

Invitations were printed.

Guests were her parents, sister Mary Banks, brother Jake, and a friend, Clay Smith. The table was set with china, silver and crystal, and the home was appropriately decorated with balloons, flowers and candles.

Elizabeth Ann wore a long black evening gown, the one she had chosen to wear for the dance. She had a corsage of white flowers on her wrist. The weather cleared long enough for photographs to be taken outside before the festivities began.

They all enjoyed appetizers of shrimp cocktail, steaks and all the trimmings. The dessert was complete with candles, but the meal was only the beginning of a wonderful evening.

The furniture was moved, and appropriate music was played while guests did the tango, waltzes and other types of dances. It wasn’t the traditional Protocol Ball or even the traditional 18th birthday celebration, but it is one the honoree and guests will never forget.


Germantown Commissary feeds Easter meal to hospital employees

7:11 PM CT, April 13

Medical workers don’t get holidays off, and during the coronavirus pandemic one Germantown food joint wanted to join the efforts to “Feed the Frontline.”

 Walker Taylor, the restaurant owner said the Germantown restaurant’s manager, Lori Pickard, took it upon herself to feed the employees. Her family and Commissary picked up the cost.

Germantown Commissary wanted to feed the 300 employees working at Methodist Germantown in the day shift.

The employees of the Germantown hospital feasted on smoked ham, spaghetti, potato salad, rolls and cookies.

“It’s a blessing 'cause they’re working hard,” Pickard said. 

Sunday night they went back and fed 375.

“What we do is nothing compared  to what they do,” she said.

The Easter evening meal included ham, dressing and gravy, potato salad, and Commissary’s homemade banana pudding.

Taylor said Commissary also recently donated 200 chicken and dressing dinners.


Bartlett Police launches “Story Time with a Cop”

7:09 PM CT, April 13

Bartlett Police Department continues to work as residents are asked to stay at home and follow Mayor Keith McDonald’s order.

“We’re still here thinking about you everyday,” Police Chief Jeff Cox said in a video on social media. “We know we’re in the middle of this and it’s not going away anytime soon.”

The police department wanted a way to still engage with residents during this time.

“I hope you’re at home practicing social distancing with your family and staying healthy,” Cox said. “So to help you along our officers came together and they decided to read stories to the kids. So we introduce to you ‘Storytime with a Cop.’”

Each day one officer will read pre-selected books to families, which can be enjoyed on the police department’s social media. The first story was The Three Bears.


April 10, 2020

Pizza for neighbors — because that’s nice to do

8:46 AM CT, April 10

The note popped up Thursday on Facebook, from someone named Kathy Johnson: “Could anyone use a cheese pizza or a pepperoni and sausage pizza tonight?”

The answer to that one is always, “yes,” or course. But what could it mean?

Shortly, the response came flooding in.

A neighbor name Rachel: “Me!”

Johnson: “On the porch. Come on!”

A neighbor named Kyle: “Pepperoni/sausage please.”

Johnson: “You got it. On front porch with your name on it! Enjoy!”

A neighbor named Maggie: “Any cheese pizza left?”

Johnson: “Absolutely! On the porch with your name on it!”

This went on for pizza after pizza. Johnson gave 20 pizzas away.

“It was just fun,” she said. “I’ve got neighbors who are home-schooling four kids. I’ve got neighbors who have lost their jobs. If I’m in a position to do this, why not?”

It wasn’t the first time Johnson provided dinner for the neighborhood during the pandemic. She had already given away vats of chicken noodle soup, taco soup and beef stew.

“I actually started with MemPops,” she said. “My brother works there. So, I had him come over one night and I bought popsicles for the neighborhood. And it just made everyone so happy. The kids were smiling — and so was everyone.”

So, Johnson — who lives in the Sea Isle section of town — drifted from popsicles to dinners. The smiles haven’t stopped.

“People are so grateful,” she said. “Honestly, it blows my mind that something so easy creates such happiness. There are people working in hospitals. There are people who are having a really hard time. This is such a simple thing. I wish I could do more. “


April 09, 2020

ServiceMaster donating services to Shelby County Sheriff’s office

6:55 PM CT, April 9

Approximately 60 to 80 Shelby County Sheriff vehicles will be decontaminated Friday.

The service is being offered for free by ServiceMaster By Cornerstone.

“It is essential that we break the chain of infection and keep our first responders safe,” Tyler Pattat, owner of ServiceMaster By Cornerstone, said in release.  “Our team is trained in sanitizing and disinfection and we have the tools and products to do the work correctly.”



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