“I want all healthcare workers, first responders, mailmen, grocers, and everyone else out there to know that I can connect them to a supply line of 100,000 FDA-approved surgical masks per week,” says Kortney Nedeau ’11, ’14MBA. “I’d be happy to work through state or hospital procurement departments, but due to their lack of willingness to work with an overseas vendor, to date I’ve been working directly with frontline workers.
“I don’t believe that they should be responsible for paying to protect themselves,” she continues. “They chose these jobs, but they did not choose to be unprotected or scared the way that most of them currently are.”
Nedeau is an international sales manager for Teh Chang Leather Company, which has facilities in China, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Through her personal and business connections she is in direct contact with a Chinese supplier of KN95 masks, which have received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Nedeau lives in her hometown of Kennebunk, ME, and has only recently taken on her present global role. She was mentored by her grandfather, Ralph Amabile, Jr., whose 67-year career in the leather business included pairing major American shoe firms such as Clarks, Rockport, and Timberland with Asian manufacturing. When Amabile passed in January at the age of 91, representatives of dozens of different brands from several faraway nations came to Kennebunk to pay their respects.
“By the time the visitors got home the virus had taken hold and their manufacturing was closed,” said Nedeau. “My coworkers couldn’t find any masks for their families, their kids, or for themselves—and so I was going to Home Depot and Lowes to find masks to send to my coworkers there. I felt so guilty sending masks there and seeing people struggling here. Now that things have turned around, the suppliers can send masks to me for use here.”
Nedeau received her Plymouth State bachelor’s in professional communications with a minor in business administration, then earned her MBA. She was active in the PSU community through the Marketing Association of Plymouth State (MAPS), PSU Pride, and the Diversity Committee, and as captain of the Softball Team. More recently she’s been involved in the Alumni Association and has represented the University at several college fairs in Maine.
Chantalle Forgues, one of Nedeau’s former professors, remains in touch. “Kortney is really doing something special here and we at PSU should be proud!” says Forgues. “She sent masks to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and to a physician at the Elliot Hospital (in Manchester, NH) for further dissemination, both at my request.”
Helping others is fundamental to Nedeau. She has volunteered over the years for Habitat for Humanity, several food banks, the American Heart Association, and the Maine Cancer Foundation, among others.
“Everyone who is protecting us deserves to be protected,” says Nedeau, who is tied directly to the frontlines via her fiancé, a traveling nurse currently on contract at Wentworth-Douglass Hospital in Portsmouth, NH. “We’re all quarantined, but the reality lies with those who are facing this head on and every little bit helps.”
Her personal efforts to date have produced a lot more than a little. She has distributed approximately 6,000 masks and she has approximately 15,000 more in transit, which she will resell at no profit.
She started the process by laying out $2,500 of her own money (since reimbursed) to buy her first batch of masks, and has continued to sell masks at cost directly to first responders and healthcare workers. Donations help pay for shipping or to supply masks to those who have no funds to cover their needs.
Her ad hoc efforts are meeting a crucial need. She started by sending masks to Speare Memorial Hospital in Plymouth and has branched out to sending them across the country, including to employees of the Chicago, Daytona Beach, and Los Angeles police departments, the San Diego Health Coalition, and the Lahey Clinic, among other organizations.
In addition, Nedeau is personally delivering masks free of charge to those on the frontline in her area of southern Maine, including grocery stores, nursing homes, police and fire departments, drug and alcohol recovery centers, and homeless shelters.
But much more needs to be done. She’s heard horror stories about workers forced to use coffee filters and T-shirts wrapped around their heads for lack of proper masks. Going into procedures with literally nothing over their faces. Using paper surgical masks for five- to seven-hour shifts and then having to sanitize them to be used again. “It’s something that has taken sleep from me at night, definitely,” she says.
Acknowledgement from Kennebunk Fire Rescue puts Nedeau’s efforts and the issue in context: “Your contribution of Personal Protective Equipment will be used immediately to protect our first responders. Further, this will make a difference in a responder’s ability to provide medical care for not only one patient, but will allow that provider to continue to serve those in need of medical attention without the risk of infection.”
Additional information regarding Nedeau’s efforts and her #GETMEPPECAMPAIGN are available on her Facebook page.