How Bham Support is making Birmingham better + what you can do to help

Face shield
Dr. Neeraj Mehta, cardiologist at Shelby Baptist in Alabaster, sporting his fancy face shield. Photo via Rita Goyal

If you need a pick-me up right now (and who doesn’t), you need to know about Bham Support. This group of volunteers has donated more than 2,800 face shields to Birmingham-area healthcare workers, and the orders are still pouring in. We reached out to volunteer Daniel Near to find out more, plus how you can get involved.

Bham Now: How + why did Bham Support get started?

Bham Support Face Shields
Face Shields from Bham Support. Photo via Urgent Care for Children’s Facebook page

Daniel Near: My involvement with BHAMSupport started out of a group chat between members of Red Mountain Makers, a 501c3 public benefit nonprofit in Woodlawn. 

In early March, when it looked like there was a bullseye on our community, we connected with our Nation of Makers group. We found what others were doing across the country, then looked for options that would benefit the community and were within our wheelhouse.  

Since we’re heavily involved with the startup community, our friends joined practically the day we announced and had the basis of our volunteer effort cemented.  

Not everyone had access to 3D printers, but everyone was able to find ways to help—promoting our effort, building a website, drafting in additional volunteers and connecting with the broader community.  

Bham Now: How many different volunteers do y’all have now?

Daniel Near: I believe we have close to 40 volunteers—maybe more, since I haven’t met most of them personally. 

About half of them became our distributed 3D printing farm, making the upper band and support pieces for the face shield in their homes and delivering parts daily, many using their own funds.

Other volunteers helped to vet out requests for face shields to make sure the local hospitals knew that these were reusable and to quantify what amount we could supply them quickly to keep them safe and allow us to reach more locations faster.  A few sourced supplies for the plastic sheet for the front of the shield, and the rest helped with assembly and distribution. 

Bham Now: How many different local companies are involved?

Daniel Near: Red Mountain Makers, Rocky Heights Print & Binding, Conserv, Fledging, Purilan, Alabama Power, UAB School of Engineering and Stream Innovations are the key companies I’ve worked with. There are surely others.

Rocky Heights has been a huge help, setting up and staffing a call center, printing up the pamphlets that go in with each delivery, and I believe paying her staff to assist in our operations.

Bham Now: How many student volunteers, and from which schools that you know of?

Daniel Near: I don’t have much contact with a lot of the people 3d printing at home. They’ve delivered directly to Rocky Heights for assembly.  I do know that Cooper Swindle from Chelsea was in the Shelby County Reporter and was producing really high-quality parts. 

Note from Bham Now: We recently wrote this piece about a group of Altamont School students who are also part of the Bham Support effort.

Bham Now: How many hospitals and centers have you donated to?

Daniel Near: We’ve delivered to over 64 different locations throughout the Birmingham Metro. Places like Grandview, Children’s of Alabama, St. Vincent’s, Shelby Baptist, and even to local dentists, Home Hospice Care, Haynes Ambulance and local fire departments.

Bham Now: What kind of reception are the face shields and other items getting?

Daniel Near: The reception has been overwhelmingly positive. Many of these hospitals have had to ration single-use items because the commercial vendors can’t meet their needs. The single-use shields are quickly scratched up and hard to see through, but the supplies we put together are lasting dozens of cleanings with only minor wear.

Bham Now: Which items is Bham Support making?

Daniel Near: Our group has mainly focused on reusable face shields. I believe we’ve delivered over 2,800 as of today. We got a few requests for ear guards, so we printed several hundred of them. I got one request for an intubation box for a medical facility in Gardendale that we built on our laser cutter in one evening.

Bham Now: What else should I be asking?

Daniel Near: We knew we couldn’t cover the whole state. It’s just too expansive! But Makerspaces are in many major cities and we’re all connected together.

Almost two weeks ago, we partnered with efforts in Montgomery, Mobile Makerspace, Dothan and Makers Local 256 in Huntsville, and with our combined resources have covered a good portion of the state.  

The group in Huntsville included Destin Sandlin from SmarterEveryDay, who had an injection mold made and helped everyone ramp up our ability to deliver.  

At last count, our combined efforts delivered over 13,000 face shields statewide.

A large pallet of several thousand more passed through today on its way down to Montgomery and Mobile from the Huntsville group.  

We don’t want to spin down our efforts until the commercial entities are able to deliver on-time, but we also don’t have the resources to call every rural hospital to see if they have needs.  

Nearly all of our hospitals were arranged through word-of-mouth from news coverage and friends. So if anyone works at or knows a facility that’s unable to get supplies, we want to help them or refer them to one of the other efforts outside our reach to get them the PPE they need.

Want to get involved? 

  1. If you want to help produce or distribute face shields, sign up to be a maker.
  2. Learn how to make face shields and ear savers.
  3. Donate. $25 makes 5 face shields.
  4. Request equipment for your organization.

Contact: 205.251.7747 | Website | Email

Now tell us, do you know of other amazing volunteer efforts that are making a difference in Birmingham right now? Email and let us know. 

Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference

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