Recent grad upcycling thousands of graduation gowns to help hospitals in need of PPE

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Nathaniel Moore wearing his cap and gown outside of University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, Vermont. (Photo courtesy Gowns 4 Good)

Nathaniel Moore, a recent graduate of an MBA at the University of Vermont, is among thousands who participated in a virtual ceremony this year due to COVID-19.

Rather than letting his graduation gown go to waste, Moore, who is a physician assistant, decided to repurpose it as personal protective equipment for frontline health care workers fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

That decision inspired the 30-year-old to launch Gowns 4 Good, an initiative that gathers and repurposes graduation gowns as PPE.

“The gowns definitely signify a monumental time in their (graduates) lives,” Moore told CNN, “but what good is your gown doing hanging in your in the closet for years collecting dust when it could be having an immediate impact in someone else’s life?”

In just over a month, Moore has collected over 10,000 gowns.

An idea born out of necessity

Around the world, hospitals and medical centers are struggling with a shortage of PPE as they deal with the coronavirus pandemic.

The supply shortfall is something that Moore has seen firsthand in his role as a physician assistant in the emergency room at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

“Treating COVID patients myself, I noticed the image of some of my colleagues and other medical facilities that were lacking the appropriate PPE and performing on the front lines without it,” Moore said.

“It’s crucial that we can stay protected. It’s the difference between transmitting the disease from health care worker to patient when you go room-to-room.”

Donations of graduation gowns poured in from all across the US. (Photo courtesy Gowns 4 Good)

Moore, who recently earned his MBA in sustainable innovation, thought the gowns would be perfect to upcycle into protective gear since they cover up more than some of the alternatives now in use, like trash bags.

“Graduation gowns are more effective than other PPE alternatives given their length, sleeves, and easy zippered access,” said Moore.

“What’s a better idea than to put those gowns in the hands of our medical providers as a solution to protect them on the front line?”

So far, 88,000 frontline responders have registered to receive the regalia, and donations have poured in from across the US.

The upcycling of the gowns also became a way to honor those graduates who missed out on the traditional graduation, Moore said.

Wear the cap, donate the gown

To promote the initiative, Moore is using the slogan “Wear the Cap, Donate the Gown” to encourage grads to decorate graduation caps to raise awareness.

“We want them to keep their caps,” Moore said.

Moore is sending grads logos to adhere to their caps.

“They can signify their effort and know that they did something great with their gown.”

The response has been overwhelming, Moore said, with his apartment and PO box flooded with donated gowns. He started a GoFundMe fundraiser to help pay for shipping, and retailers like Graduation Source and Cooper Cap and Gown have also donated 2,700 gowns to the cause.

“The stories that we’re hearing in return from both the donors and recipients have been so powerful,” added Moore.

He recalled a mother who donated her son’s gown, which she held on to for two years following his death in a car accident.

“She said, ‘there is no better way to honor and signify his life than to donate his gown to help protect health care workers.'”

He hopes that others will consider donating their academic garb to the cause.

“We know it’s hard for individuals to part with their gowns,” explained Moore.

“But the emotional toll that this is taking on a lot of our essential workers is just huge,” he said.

“We want to make sure that we can support them in all of their efforts, knowing that they’re not forgotten.”

To find out how you can donate a graduation gown, click here.

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