Had been in storage since Superstorm Sandy cleanup



WALL TOWNSHIP  Volunteers last week located nearly 2,000 face masks at the InfoAge Science Histo­ry Learning Center and donated them to area hospitals and first responders.

The sealed N95 particu­ late respirator masks were boxed in storage, leftover from 2012 when a volunteer Superstorm Sandy-response center was set up on the In­foAge campus.

“The excess masks were held in the event that there would be a need for them again. That need has arrived and InfoAge was there to support its community,” In­foAge Chief Executive Offi­cer Michael T. Ruane said.

As urgency arose amid the coronavirus crisis last week for more personal protective gear [PPE] such as surgical gowns, masks, and gloves, InfoAge volunteers Ray Brown and Daniel Jacobs recalled that InfoAge had some masks in storage, and they located several boxes.

An InfoAge representa­ tive texted Timothy Ho­ gan, president of Riverview Medical Center in Red Bank, and asked if he would be in­terested in a donation of the masks.

“He immediately texted

back: ‘”Yes! Absolutely!’ and within one hour, Mr. Hogan drove through the InfoAge gates in his own SUV. Less than 20 minutes later,  he was headed north on Route 18 to Red Bank,” Mr. Ruane said. Around 1,000 of the N95 masks were donated to Riverview.

Around the same time, a sergeant from the Wall Township Police Depart­ment picked up around 400 of the masks for use by Wall police, EMTs, first aid squad volunteers, and other first re­sponders.

Then on Saturday, Mr.Brown and Mr. Jacobs went back and dug even deeper in the back of the H Build­ ing on the InfoAge campus and discovered another two boxes filled with about 40 0 more of the N95 respirator masks. “It was real hard to find, but we did find boxes with N95 in small print,” Mr. Ja­ cobs said.

An InfoAgerepresentative called Jersey Shore Univer­sity Medical Center in Nep­ tune and spoke to the super­visory nurse on duty to see if the hospital would accept the masks.

“She was surprised and excited about getting the masks and Brown and Ja­ cobs delivered the masks to the hospital Saturday after­ noon,” Mr. Ruane said.

“The Saturday delivery of the masks to Jersey Shore will put their nurses and medical teams in a much better place with respect to their personal safety and ul­timately, their patients’ and family’s safety,” amid the coronavirus crisis, he said.

Later, Mr. Jacobs and Mr. Brown found another couple of sleeves containing more masks that were dropped off at the Spring Lake Height s Police Department, Mr. Ja­ cobs said.


Gov. Phil Murphy says New Jersey desperately needs more PPE such as N95 masks to protect its health care workers who are on the front lines of the battle against the virus.

He said while area hos­pitals and the state Depart­ment of Health are doing ev­ery thing they can to locate more of the protective gear within the state, he last week repeatedly asked President Donald Trump to send more PPE to New Jersey, one of the hardest-hit states in the pandemic.

“I would say the number one [gap] is personal pro­tective equipment and that’s why … we’re doing every­ thing we can to turn over

every single stone to get as much of that as we can get, including we continue to ask the federal government for another slug out of the strategic stockpile,” the gov­ernor said at a press briefing. “Our asks are pretty much, every time out, more PPE to protect our extraordinary health-care workers, the he­ roes, our first responders,” he said.


The cases of N95 masks donated last week were among supplies, provided by New Jersey Natural Gas and other groups, that were left over after a volunteer center for post-Superstorm Sandy cleanup was set up on the InfoAge campus, InfoAge founder Fred Carl said.

He said a storage building was filled with truckloads of material at the time, and the protective masks were worn by volunteers when they worked to clean out moldy wallboard and muddy debris from damaged homes.

“We were very fortunate that New Jersey Natural Gas, the United Way, the

Methodist Church and oth­ er volunteers gave up their free time to help clean out homes damaged in Super­ storm Sandy,” he said.

“What a gift that New Jer­sey Natural Gas and others gave to the community,” he said, noting that more than 2,000  displaced families got back into their homes. He said the work to get families back into their homes is still ongoing by volunteers with the nonprofit SBP agency based at InfoAge.


Mr. Jacobs said he and Mr. Brown remembered that leftover face masks were in storage at InfoAge because some of the masks had been used by volunteer carpenters over the years for dust-protection as they sanded and built elaborate outdoor sets for the Hallow­een Base of Terror held at InfoAge each October. 

The annual “fright fest,” featuring costumed ghouls jumping out at people as they walked through creepy sets, was a major fundraiser for InfoAge but was discon­tinued last year.

Mr. Jacobs said when he and Mr. Brown first found the masks, deep in the back of the building behind stacks of Base of Terror costumes, he wasn’t certain they would be useful for health care workers. His wife, Joanna, a nurse at Sunnyside Manor in Wall, clued him in to the importance of the find.

“I did n’t know what an N95 was a week ago. My wife was just amazed,” he said. “I gave Mike [Ruane] a call and said ‘We just found an incredible amount of masks. These are lives. These are going to keep people safe. ”


Mr. Jacob’s family has a history of service at the U.S. Army’s Camp Evans, now the home oflnfoAge.

His grandmother, Ber­tha Jacobs, worked there in housekeeping during World War II, while three of her 11 children – Richard, George, and James – were off fight­ ing the war. Now, Mr. Jacobs and his family volunteer at InfoAge and he leads the Computer Deconstruction Laboratory, which provides a maker ­space promoting STEM ed­ucation and offers a studio podcast on Monday nights.

“Everything we do is a team effort. We have a great number of volunteers. It’s a cool place,” he said.

Sanne Young can be reached at syoung@thecoaststar.com or 732-223-0076 Ext 17.