by Dawn Mitchell
NACE Board Member

As the Philadelphia area was impacted by Covid-19 restrictions, our industry abruptly came to a halt March 17, 2020. No upcoming events, rescheduling clients and hope for future clients became the new reality--all while juggling basic human life safety concerns in a rapidly changing world.

But that didn’t stop the creativity, drive and commitment to help others our wedding and event community is known for.

Photos: Slay Displays

Almost immediately, NACE member Julia Kireeva, creative director, owner of Slay Displays had transitioned her business from making visual backdrops for weddings and events such as illuminated marquee letters and larger-than-life flower arches to personal protective equipment (PPE)—specifically face shields. The face shields create an extra layer of protection that goes over masks, or goggles to prevent the spread of the virus.

Photo: Julia Kireeva testing her fabricated Shields

She donated them to our local hospitals citing ICU and CoVid floors healthcare workers’ lack of PPE.

Here’s Kireeva’s story as interviewed by Lauren Westerman, NACE Philadelphia/South Jersey/Delaware Director of Fundraising and Owner/Event Planner, Classic Events by Lauren, the chapter's latest “1 on 1 Zoom In with Industry Leaders” segment.

“It was the first week of the quarantine…I wanted to do something,” Kireeva said. Inspired by Elon Musk’s donation of thousands of ventilators to facilities all over the country, she thought, I wish we were a bigger company. Then she asked, “what can we do to utilize our talent and experience and tools that we have to help the community.” However, it was a Facebook ad for a $20 face shield; people profiting off of the shortage that prompted her to take action.

“I can’t sew but can fabricate because that’s what we do here. It took us two days to come up with a design” Kireeva said. Then medical workers, doctors, and lab workers tested it out and loved it. The Kireevas invested their own money to create the first batch which was 300 shields, individually packaged and distributed along with a note that reads, “This letter is to YOU. The you who had a rough week. The you who has lost faith. The you who thinks you can’t go on much longer…you are incredible, you make this world a better place. Better things are coming! You are not alone. We are stronger together. Hang in there. You can do this. Signed Slay Displays with Love.”

Since then, a Go Fund Me was created to take production to the next level. Posted requests from area hospitals flooded the social media page such as: “Hello I’m currently a ADON working at a Long-term care facility in Northeast Philadelphia. We are in need of face shields. Please let me know if you can help!! Thanks.”

“Hello, how can I order face shields for the Pharmacy department at Pennsylvania Hospital?

“Hi! I PM'd you about possibly helping some Physical Therapists with Mercy Home Health? They are some strong frontline heroes. They have no shields and would be so grateful for even just 5 shields. I'm happy to pick up for them! Thanks for considering!”

To date, Slay Displays raised just under $9,500 according to the Face Shields by Slay Displays Facebook post on May 5, 2020. Proceeds enabled them to achieve the goal of producing 2,500 face shields. The milestone was reached April 28 as Slay Displays contributed 240 hours of labor - 2500 shields – all given to 76 local healthcare facilities.

And in response, the gratitude for this endeavor was equally present on social media. Here are just a few:

“Jefferson Torresdale thanks you! Face shields are awesome!!!”

“Your face shields are absolutely amazing, thank you for all you do to keep us frontline workers safe! I felt so safe last night while doing PT care with your shield, thanks for all you do.”

“Suburban Community Hospital is so grateful for all your support!!!! Thanks so much for our face shields!!!”

 “It feels so good to help people,” Kireeva said.

 

Way to step up, Julia! We are proud of your innovation and generosity to the community.