By Greg Argos

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Amid the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic, we continue to hear inspiring stories of community members helping others. This includes local medical students who are honing their knowledge and craft to support essential workers.

For a group of medical students, the COVID-19 pandemic tapped the brakes on their medical school studies.

“We were on our rotations when the entire COVID-19 situation happened. We knew we weren’t going to have any patient contact for the foreseeable future,” Artika Saharan said. “We’re at home and feeling a little bit useless.”

“Many of us want to be on the frontlines. We want to help as much as we can,” Terry Gao said.

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So Gao and Saharan, both at Jefferson University, channeled their energies and their passion to help others and created the PPE 2 PHL volunteer network, which unites donated personal protection equipment to health care workers throughout our region.

“We have our callers work through this list of businesses and secure any verbal commitments,” Gao said. “Then we connect the donor to a courier who then picks it up and brings it to our central as inventory before we sort if for distribution.”

The grassroots organization started with just four volunteers three weeks ago. Now it’s up to nearly 200 and those helping out are not just in the health care field.

“It’s also people who are home and want to make phone calls and I think we even have a volunteer firefighter,” Saharan said.

So far, over 6,000 surgical masks, 824 respirators, including N95 masks, 23,000 gloves, 300 booties, 250 scrubs, 460 pairs of goggles and 750 face shields have been donated and delivered.

(credit: CBS3)

“And that was all last week and I know for a fact, we’ve had some tremendous donations this week,” Saharan said.

It’s a mission that will continue on for as long as this pandemic persists.

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“I definitely feel a sense of urgency because a lot of the people who are on the frontline, they are my friends,” said Gao.

“It’s been nice to see we’re capable of making changes and making an impact,” Saharan added.

Gao says word has spread so quickly that hospitals and health care workers are reaching out directly saying what they need.

For more information on how you can request PPE for your health care facility, click here.