Paying it forward: Benefactor’s mask donation helps students in Northeast Florida

March 12, 2021
Duval County School Masks
Billy Ulm, a Mayo Clinic patient and benefactor in Georgia, generously donated 1 million masks to Mayo Clinic in Florida. Since Mayo Clinic has an ample supply of personal protective equipment, the masks were donated to students in Northeast Florida.

Hundreds of thousands of students in schools across Northeast Florida are receiving masks, thanks to an unusual opportunity that came through a donation to Mayo Clinic and some quick thinking from staff.

Billy Ulm, a Mayo Clinic patient and benefactor in Georgia, owns a clothing manufacturing business and generously donated 1 million masks to Mayo Clinic in Florida. His hope was that Mayo Clinic could use them or find a broader community use for them.

That’s exactly what’s happened.

Since Mayo Clinic has ample supplies of masks and other personal protective equipment, staff in Supply Chain Management knew that other people in the community could use them.

Working with Development, Community Engagement and his colleagues in Supply Chain Management, Theodore Pappas, director of Supply Chain Management at Mayo Clinic in Florida, found a home for the masks, which arrived in a large truck and filled two eight-foot spaces in a warehouse on the Florida campus.

After making contacts across the community, Ashley Pratt, director of Community Engagement, discovered that school systems in Northeast Florida have a continuing need for masks for their students. The Duval County School System, for example, has more than 100,000 students.

“We have experienced shortages, especially with smaller-size masks, and this donation is helping children and families most in need in our community,” says Corey Wright, an assistant superintendent with Duval County Public Schools. “We are so grateful to receive this donation.”

In addition to schools in Duval County and other surrounding counties, Pratt found several other community partners who needed masks, including Beaches Emergency Assistance Ministry in Jacksonville Beach, the Sulzbacher Village in downtown Jacksonville, Gabriel House of Care, and the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation Hope Lodge.  

Serving an important community need is rewarding, Pappas and Pratt say, as was the experience of working together to find a solution.

“I’m really proud of the way our teams pivoted to take the donation and get them quickly to someone who could use them,” Pappas says. “I think it’s an example of the agile, innovative mindset that we’re also being asked to embrace as Mayo looks to the future of health care and our organization as a whole.”