Before the pandemic, Emily Wakeman and Lucy Carrera were happily cruising around the San Francisco Bay Area as part of the Dames Don’t Care Motorcycle Collective. But when crisis hit, they revved into action, starting Dames Do Care PPE Delivery, a “a volunteer brigade roaming the streets with a righteous purpose.” Now more than 150 riders strong, the Dames transport personal protective equipment (PPE) all over the Bay Area.
Among other PPE donors, the Dames are working directly with Something Labs, a Get Us PPE-affiliated maker group in San Francisco. They have delivered about 5,000 isolation gowns made by Something Labs, with funding from Get Us PPE.
We asked co-directors Emily and Lucy about their most memorable deliveries, how the wildfires affect their work, and how the heck you deliver PPE on motorcycles.
How did Dames Do Care get started?
After seeing a news piece on a woman in NYC delivering PPE to first responders on her motorcycle, our founder Lucy Carrera was inspired to organize a similar service for the San Francisco Bay Area. She recruited members of the Dames Don’t Care Motorcycle Collective and convinced them to eschew the trappings of their more apathetic sisters and brothers and form Dames Do Care PPE Delivery. The organization has now grown to include over 150 riders.
Why did you choose to focus on PPE?
It is so easy to feel helpless during this pandemic, and we were empowered by the realization that we can help with the resources we’ve got. We have motorcycles! That precludes the transporting of anything of a great size, but we were the best choice for efficiently bringing smaller packages between the far-flung counties of the loosely defined Bay Area. Of course, many of our riders also own four-wheeled vehicles and were happy to also transport large bolts of fabric and bulk loads of PPE.
What has been your most memorable delivery so far?
Every single delivery is very special in its own way. We have moved hundreds of gowns for frontline health care workers in a single load, but also a single, desperately needed spool of thread or a bag of buttons.
My favorite delivery was to an assisted living facility. I left a small package of masks in front of the door and called them to let them know to pick it up. As I walked away, all of the on-shift workers came out to wave “thank you!” Even a few masks can make a huge difference.
Another time we were told that our free delivery service meant that one maker was able to ship masks to NYC and Detroit, which at the time were taking a very rough hit. That was a special moment too, because it made us feel like part of a global solution.
We were asked to pick up and deliver several hundred pounds of donated fabric to a local laser cutter who volunteered his time and warehouse-sized automatic machine to cut thousands and thousands of precuts that would then be delivered to volunteer sewists around the Bay Area.
What kind of PPE needs are you seeing on the ground in the Bay Area?
We typically transport PPE from individual mask-makers and deliver them to a central storage location, or we move them from that central location to hospitals, clinics, and assisted living facilities. We typically transport homemade masks, but also sometimes gowns and scrub caps. We have also transported prototype face shields, which was pretty cool.
How are the wildfires impacting your work right now?
Delivery requests and volunteer availability both decreased sharply as people started getting back to work. Although the medical community seems to have sated their emergency demand for PPE, the fires have again put our community at risk, and organizers have been collecting supplies and masks for donation and have asked us to deliver for them. Several deliveries have been shuttled to Mendocino county, and volunteers have been more than willing to go even though road conditions were unknown.
How do you deliver PPE on motorcycles? Does it fit?
Motorcycles can actually carry a surprising amount of goods. A backpack will hold a lot but many bikes are also outfitted with panniers and top cases. Our most awesome delivery on a motorcycle was a sewing machine! Motorcyclists have developed a number of ways to strap a lot of stuff to their bike, necessity being the mother of invention.
What drew you to this work, and what do you enjoy about it?
Volunteering in your community is one of the most important things you can ever do. It’s a way to make a huge difference and become a part of something special. So when Lucy had this idea, dozens of people immediately offered to be of service. We all know someone who works in health care so every delivery is special. The added bonus is that we get to ride our motorcycles!!